AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 21, 2009

Appropriations

The Senate hopes to finish consideration of two appropriations bills this week: Interior and Defense. Senate appropriators are already considering an omnibus bill that will combine several unfinished spending bills, including the Labor, HHS, Education spending bill, into one.  Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are expected to vote on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) needed to continue funding the government beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, likely through the end of October. The CR will give Congress additional time to finish work on the 12 annual spending bills. To date, the House has approved versions of all 12; the Senate has finished five. The House and Senate must also resolve differences in the five bills they have both completed before they can be signed by the President.

Health Care Reform

The Finance Committee will markup the health care bill finally introduced last week by Chairman Max Baucus as "America's Health Futures Act."  Sen. Baucus tried unsuccessfully to get bipartisan support for the bill before introduction.  Republicans and Democrats are attacking the compromise bill that was intended to pull both sides together.  Sen. Baucus hopes to complete the markup by the end of the week (in spite of a large number of amendments from both sides) and move to the Senate floor next week.  The bill includes important provisions supported by AUCD that in the other bills to date, such as a prohibition of pre-existing conditions and discrimination based on health status, annual and lifetime caps, expansion of Medicaid, and requirement for data collection on disability-related health disparities.  One major concern of the disability community; however, is that the benefits package does not specifically include rehabilitation and habilitation services and DME.  An updated side-by-side of the congressional bills is linked to the AUCD website.

Long Term Services and Supports

AUCD and other disability advocates are continuing to advocate for the inclusion of the CLASS Act and Community Choice options into the bill during markup. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) submitted an amendment to include the "Community First Choice Option" in Medicaid to the Finance Committee health care reform bill.  This option is based on the Community Choice Act (CCA) and would give the states an option to provide a wide range of community-based services to people who would otherwise qualify for institutional level of care.  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is the lead sponsor of the CCA, is not a member of the Finance Committee.  Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) also submitted an amendment to include the Empowered At Home Act during the Committee markup that begins tomorrow. There are additional amendments addressing long term services and supports submitted by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI).  Cost will be a major factor in whether or not amendments are included in the final Finance package. These next few weeks will be very important for grassroots involvement in educating members of Congress about these important elements.  AUCD will be sending an action alert on health and long term care this week.

Equal Access to Medicare Options Act

On Sept. 15, Sen. Kerry (D-MA) introduced the Equal Access to Medicare Options Act.  This bill would give all beneficiaries the extended guaranteed issue of Medigap policies and issue rights to Medicare Advantage including those with end-stage renal disease and would prevent Medigap insurers from discriminating against beneficiaries with disabilities and seniors. A House version of the bill is also being released; however no bill numbers have been assigned.

Health Disparities Briefing

AUCD is co-sponsoring a Senate briefing on September 22 at the U.S. Capitol that will highlight the costs associated with health disparities in our country and the cost savings that could be realized if these significant disparities were reduced.  The briefing will include discussion such as why data collection is critical, as well as issues regarding workforce development, language access, health coverage, quality, and prevention.  The briefing was organized by a National Working Group on Health Disparities and Health Reform led by the American Psychological Association (APA). 

Higher Education Act ANPRM

AUCD submitted comments in response to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the Higher Education Act (HEA). The Department of Education requested input on a number of programs that impact individuals with disabilities in postsecondary settings.  AUCD's comments mainly supported or strengthened policies that to require that students with intellectual disabilities be socially and academically integrated to the maximum extent possible.  The Collaboration on Self-Determination and the CCD Education Task Force also submitted comments.

Office of Civil Rights Data Collection on Seclusion and Restraint

The U.S. Department of Education's Office on Civil Rights will start collecting data on such practices as restraint and seclusion as part of its Civil Rights Data Collection. The addition is one of several changes the agency plans to make to the collection, according to a notice in the Sept. 11 edition of the Federal Register (Volume 74 #175 p.46750). Comments on the proposed revisions are due November 10, more information can be found on the office website.

WIA Reauthorization

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis has asked the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to conduct a series of "listening" on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). ETA and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will be jointly conducting this listening session on the following topics: What is working well in WIA and should be continued?; What is not working well and should be discontinued or altered?; What opportunities does reauthorization present for innovation and change? William Kiernan, Director of the Boston Institute for Community Inclusion (UCEDD) and AUCD's Legislative Affairs Co-Chair, will participate ruing the listening session for disability stakeholders on Oct. 1. A teleconference number will be provided to those who wish to attend remotely. Written comments can be submitted to WIA.Reauthorization2009@dol.gov through Oct. 15. This listening session will be recorded and archived on www.workforce30ne.org.

NICHD Leadership

Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, announced last week that he will resign from this position on September 30, 2009, to begin a new assignment.  He will be working closely with Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Center, as a Senior Scientific Advisor on Global Maternal and Child Health Research.  In this role I will assist Dr. Glass in assembling and implementing the NIH components of a new initiative being developed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity in less developed countries through research and delivery of health services.   Susan Shurin, M.D., currently the Deputy Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, will serve as Acting Director of NICHD, while a search is conducted for a new permanent director.  Susan joined NIH in 2006 from Case Western Reserve University, where she was Professor of Pediatrics and Oncology and Vice President for Research.

AUCD Policy Fellowship

AUCD is seeking applicants now for the policy fellowship that will begin as soon as possible.  This position is a yearlong opportunity for LEND trainees or mid-level career network members to contribute to the field of disability policy at the national level.  Activities include but are not limited to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  A full description and application instructions are located on the AUCD website.  Applications are currently being accepted.  The position will be open until filled.