AUCD Legislative News InBrief

May 5, 2008

Congressional Schedule

There will be a flurry of activity between now and the Memorial Day recess as Congress tries to complete work on bills that have been backed up for months and few actual legislative days left in this Session of Congress.  House Democratic leaders are hoping to take up a FY 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this week that may include the Medicaid regulation moratoria bill (see Medicaid below). However, House and Senate Democratic leaders remain at odds about the level of domestic spending to be included in the package, with the Senate looking to add more than the House.  The House will also consider a Housing stimulus package. The House and Senate might also finally approve a farm bill that includes significant increases in the Food Stamp program.

 

Budget

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad and House Budget Chairman John Spratt report that they are close to reaching and deal on a budget resolution this week, although details of the plan have not been made public. If Congress is not able to come to agreement on an overall budget resolution, by May 15 Appropriations Committees are allowed to begin marking up their bills without the resolution.  In that case, a deeming resolution would still have to be passed to provide an overall spending number for discretionary programs.

 

Medicaid

Following passage in the House, last week Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) attempted to bring up the Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008 (H.R. 5613) for unanimous consent consideration.  However, action in the Senate was blocked by Senator Coburn (R-OK).  There is now an effort to get the moratoria bill included in the war supplemental package.  AUCD signed on a CCD letter that was sent to leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee asking for inclusion of the Medicaid regulations moratoria.  The President has threatened to veto the bill if it contains what he considers extraneous domestic spending.  The Medicaid moratoria bill is estimated to cost $1.65 billion.   The AUCD Action Center has an alert to gain Senate support for moratorium on Medicaid regulations: http://capwiz.com/aucd/issues/alert/?alertid=11163826

 

Medicare

AUCD signed on a CCD Health Task Force letter to leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee concerning the impact of pending Medicare Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Bidding program on beneficiaries with disabilities and chronic conditions.  The program singles out vital assistive devices and technologies under the Medicare fee-for-service program to be provided by the lowest bidder.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that, on average, the price Medicare will pay suppliers for the targeted products is 26% lower than current payment rates.  There is concern that this process will significantly threaten access to and quality of assistive devices and technologies that are essential components of the health and independence of individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions.  The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing tomorrow on this issue where Kerry Weems, acting CMS Administrator, is slated to testify.

 

ADA Restoration Act

Over the last several months the members from the disability and business communities have negotiated a compromise to move forward on the ADA Restoration Act.  CCD members are being asked to support the compromise to move the best possible legislation forward this year.  The hope is that the compromise will garner enough support in the House and Senate to obtain a bill this year, with the goal of having an ADA Restoration bill to the President for before the ADA Anniversary on July 26.             

 

GINA

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA, H.R.495) has passed the House and Senate and is poised for Presidential signature.  The President is expected to sign the bill into law. 

 

Higher Education Act

The House and Senate continue to conference legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.  Another 30-day expansion in under consideration, with the goal of having a bill sent to the President before the Memorial Day recess.     

 

Community Choice Act

ADAPT celebrated its 25th Anniversary last week in Washington DC.  ADAPT activists conducted a non-violent action at the Department of Health and Human Services which resulted in a future meeting with Secretary Leavitt.  They also held an action at the campaign offices of Senator John McCain and the Republican National Committee to urge public support for the Community Choice Act.  ADAPT released a list of the Ten Best - Ten Worst States in Home and Community Services and Supports in front of the National Governors Association (NGA) offices.    An alert to gain co-sponsors for the Community Choice Act is on the AUCD Action Center:  http://capwiz.com/aucd/issues/alert/?alertid=9568111     

 

Health Care Reform

The Senate Finance Committee on May 6 will hold a hearing on "Seizing the New Opportunity for Health Reform." Former Health and Human Services Secretaries Tommy Thompson and Donna Shalala are both scheduled to testify.

 

Social Security

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing May 6 on "Employment Eligibility Verification Systems and the Potential Impacts on the Social Security Administration's Serve Retirees, People with Disabilities, and Workers."

 

Telecommunications

The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing last week where a draft of the "21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act" was discussed.  The bill would help address a variety accessibility issues with new internet and digital communications technologies.  The bill is expected to be introduced in coming weeks.   

 

Veterans with Disabilities

House Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow veterans with disabilities to receive periodic updates on plans and designs to modify their homes to accommodate their war injuries. The bill (H.R. 5664) updates Title 38 of the U.S. Code by directing the Veterans Administration (VA) to update and send out a handbook every six years that would "take into account any new or unique disabilities" in assisting disabled veterans living at home. The bill was sent to the full committee by voice vote without dissent. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), passed the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee on April 23.

 

Spina Bifida and Veterans

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved unanimously a bill that would extend comprehensive health care to children of Vietnam Veterans born with Spina Bifida. A link is said to exist between soldiers exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide used during the Vietnam War, and the development of Spina Bifida in veterans' children. Current law states healthcare is provided for victims of Spina Bifida "as the Secretary determines is needed by the child for the Spina Bifida or any disability that is associated with such condition." The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ellsworth (D-IN), strikes that phrase and replaces it with "health care under this section." The purpose is ease eligibility determinations and make it easier to obtain healthcare for secondary conditions resulting from the condition. The bill would cost $8.4 million in FY10 and $142 million total from FY10-FY19.

 

Ohio Presidential Election Forum

The deadline is approaching to become a co-sponsor of the presidential candidate forum on disability issues.  The event will take place July 26, 2008 at Veterans Memorial in Columbus, Ohio.   This forum builds on the success of the November primary forum held in New Hampshire: http://jfactivist.typepad.com/jfactivist/2008_election/page/2/.  A large crowd of approximately 2,000 individuals is expected and the event will again be webcasted live.  Organizers hope to gain as many additional state and national organization co-sponsors as possible.  Levels of sponsorship are available at $500 and $1500.  For more information about becoming a co-sponsor contact Anne Sommers by May 7 at AAPD: aapdanne@earthlink.net.