AUCD Legislative News In Brief

October 5, 2009

Appropriations

The House and Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund programs at FY 2009 levels through the end of the month while lawmakers finish work on appropriations.  The new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The House has completed its versions of all 12 bills; the Senate has completed six, but it is expected to finish the seventh -- the Defense Appropriations bill -- Tuesday. The Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill, which funds the AUCD network and many programs important to the disability community, will likely be one of the last bills to be considered and may be wrapped up into a small omnibus bill.  The timing of consideration of the funding bills depends largely on when the health care reform bills are considered by the full House and Senate.

Health Care Reform

The Finance Committee completed work late Thursday (actually 2 a.m. Friday) on its health reform bill; however, the committee will not vote on the bill until it is scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The vote may come as soon as tomorrow. The committee is expected to have the votes to pass the bill.  Meanwhile, staff are already merging the Finance and HELP Committee bills to be ready for floor action that could take place as soon as the week of Oct. 13.  The Finance Committee markup lasted seven days during which the committee debated and voted on approximately 200 amendments.  There was a lot of discussion regarding Medicare reforms in the bill, how to ensure affordability, and, of course, whether or not to include a public government plan as an option to private insurance.  On the House side, committee staff are also merging the three committee bills into one to be considered on the floor the week of Oct. 13.  It is still uncertain if the Democrats have the votes to pass the bill in the Senate where at least 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster.

Long Term Services

Aging and disability advocates combined forces on Wednesday to visit every Senate office to advocate for the inclusion of the CLASS Act and core elements of the Community Choice Act (Community First Choice Option) in the final health care bill.  The CLASS Act was approved as part of the HELP Committee bill in July.  The Community First Choice Option is in the Finance Committee bill being voted on this week.  Sen. Harkin's staff rallied with the group before it split up into smaller groups for office visits.  The purpose of the rally and Hill visits (the theme is "Community Now") was to create a disability presence in the face of insurance industry opposition to the CLASS Act.  These next couple of weeks are critical in terms of making sure that provisions important to the disability community remain part of the final health reform bill.  Another rally and Hill day is being planned for this Thursday.  Please see AUCD's action alert for more information about how to become involved in this effort: www.aucd.org.  If you would like to join the Hill visits on Thursday, please contact Kim Musheno at kmusheno@aucd.org.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

On September 30, President Obama signed a national proclamation regarding October 2009 as "National Disability Awareness Month."  The President called attention to equal employment, the implementation of effective policies and practices that can support individuals with disabilities in the workforce as well as expanding education opportunities.  This statement comes as Congress begins the reauthorization of key pieces of disability legislation such as the Workforce Investment Act and the overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB).  The full proclamation is posted on the White House website.

Children's Health Insurance

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $40 million in grants to 69 grantees in 41 states and the District of Columbia to help them find and enroll children who are uninsured but eligible for either Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  As called for in Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), grants were awarded to applicants whose outreach, enrollment and retention efforts will target geographic areas with high rates of eligible but uninsured children, particularly those with racial and ethnic minority.  More information can be found on the HHS website.

Crime Against People with Disabilities

The first national study on crime against persons with disabilities was released October 2 by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Office of Justice Programs. This report compares the victimization experience of persons with and without disabilities, using population estimates based on the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). Data are presented on victim and crime characteristics of persons with and without disabilities. The website for BJS contains more specific information.

NIH/Autism Research


President Barack Obama announced a plan on Wednesday to dedicate $5 billion to medical and scientific research, medical supplies and upgrading laboratory capacity, as part of an overall $100 billion Recovery Act investment in science and technology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Obama made the announcement during a visit to the NIH campus with HHS Secretary Sebelius. Especially noteworthy was Obama's inclusion of autism research along with cancer and heart disease among his research priorities.  During his announcement, he stated "...one of the most exciting areas of research to move forward as a result of this investment will be in applying what scientists have learned through the Human Genome Project to help us understand, prevent, and treat various forms of cancer, heart disease, and autism."