AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 26, 2012

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
 
  March 26, 2012   |  Vol. XII, Issue 13
  
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Congressional Schedule
Congress is in session this week.  The House will vote Monday on a 90-day extension of the surface transportation bill as leaders try to put together a multi-year bill to allow for conference with the Senate.  Later in the week, the House will take up its FY 2013 budget resolution. 

Budget
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his budget resolution for fiscal year 2013 last week, and the Budget Committee approved it Wednesday by one vote, 19-18.  All committee Democrats opposed the measure, along with two Republican members, Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and Justin Amash (R-MI), who felt it did not cut enough.  AUCD issued a statement expressing disappointment with Ryan's budget because of its deep cuts to vital programs for people with disabilities.  The budget would set non-defense discretionary spending at $27 billion below the cap established by the Budget Control Act last year.  An analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 62 percent of the proposal's budget cuts come from low-income programs.  The proposal would cut Medicaid by $810 billion over the next ten years and convert its funding structure into block grants to states.  AUCD joined more than 70 national disability organizations in a letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities opposing Medicaid caps or block grants and urging Congress to protect the program, which serves as a lifeline for many people with disabilities.  The full House is expected to vote on the resolution this week.

Sequestration
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-025) that was passed last August created a process for automatic, across-the-board cuts ("sequestration") beginning in January 2013 unless Congress changes the law to reduce the deficit in a more balanced way.  (See
last week's In Brief for background.)  AUCD is collecting stories related to the impact that cuts of nine percent (9%) or more would have on our network programs and other programs that assist people with disabilities.  Please send these impact stories to Kim Musheno at kmusheno@aucd.org to help us make the case that deficit reduction should not solely come from human needs programs.

Health Care Reform
Just after its two-year anniversary on Friday, the Affordable Care Act reaches the U.S. Supreme Court for three days of oral arguments this week.  Today, the Court heard arguments about whether it can even issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law, since its penalties for not carrying insurance do not go into effect until 2015.  Tomorrow, the parties will argue about the constitutionality of the law's requirement that most people obtain health insurance by 2014, the so-called "individual mandate."  Wednesday's arguments involve the constitutionality of the law's Medicaid expansion, as well as whether the provisions being challenged are "severable" from the rest of the law.  A ruling on that issue will determine whether the remainder of the law can stand if any of its provisions are found unconstitutional. 

Affordable Care Act: Get the Facts
AUCD offers facts about the law and its implementation in this new section of In Brief.

ACA Facts: Ending Pre-existing Condition Exclusions and Discrimination
The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from discriminating based on health status or condition.

ACA Facts: Guaranteed Issue and Renewal
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to sell and renew health policies to any qualified applicants regardless of health status or disability.

Employment
WIA Reauthorization Bill Introduced
Representatives George Miller (D-CA), John Tierney (D-MA) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced Tuesday a bill (HR 4227) to reauthorize and modernize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.  The bill includes provisions for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities.  It would require that training be tied to competitive employment opportunities and expand training for self-employment, in-school and post-school pre-employment opportunities, outreach and services to employers and independent living resources and services.  The next step is for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to take up the bill.

Hearing on Workplace Accommodations
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a
hearing Thursday to highlight strategies that ensure individuals working in the private sector are able to stay at and return to work after they acquire a disability.  The hearing focused on lessons from the private sector and featured a panel of experts, including Eric Buehlmann of the National Disability Rights Network.  The panel emphasized the need to engage in discussions between the employer, employee, and the employee's physician to create return-to-work plans that include accommodations such as flexible work schedules, rehabilitation services, re-training sessions, and adaptive equipment.  According to a 2006 study by the Job Accommodation Network, more than half of workplace accommodations needed to keep people with disabilities on the job cost absolutely nothing.  The Social Security Administration estimates that one in four 20-year-olds will develop a disability before they retire, making these strategies vital to the workforce.

Social Security Disability Insurance
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held the third hearing in a series Tuesday on the future of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, focusing on how disability eligibility decisions are made and whether to change the current definition of disability used in those determinations.  Lisa Ekman, Co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Social Security Task Force, testified in support of the basic structure of the SSDI programs, as well as the current qualifying definition of "disability", which ensures that only individuals with the most severe disabilities are eligible to receive benefits.  Her testimony emphasized the need for a robust, efficient, and adequately funded SSDI program - a program that provides vital economic security (averaging a modest $1,100 per month) and access to health care for individuals who have severe impairments which prevent them from engaging in substantial gainful employment. 

Companionship Regulations
The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protection, chaired by Representative Walberg (R-MI), held a
hearing Tuesday on protecting access to affordable and quality companion care.  The hearing examined proposed regulations from the Department of Labor to enhance wage-and-hour protections for home care workers.  AUCD joined over 80 organizations in signing a letter from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) supporting the Department's decision to revisit the rule on the "companionship exemption" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The proposed companionship regulations put forth by DOL would change the rules so that most "live-out" personal care attendants would be entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections.  Some in the disability community have expressed concern that this change could make this important service unaffordable for many people with disabilities and compromise the quality of care administered.  However, the overall purpose of the regulation is to prevent exploitation and address the current shortage of home-care workers by providing them with fair wages. For more details, see the National Employment Law Project's testimony.

Disability Policy Seminar
An exciting agenda is being developed for this year's Disability Policy Seminar!  Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and Senator Tom Harkin have both been invited to accept awards.  Hill staff and Obama Administration officials have also been invited to present.  If you have not yet registered, please visit
www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.  Be sure to also book your room at the Grand Hyatt - the room block is filling up fast! 


For definitions of terms used in
In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164


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