The House and Senate are both in session this week. The Senate continues to work on an extension of unemployment insurance (see more below) and both houses must pass a continuing resolution by Wednesday to buy more time for House and Senate appropriators to finalize an omnibus spending bill (more in the next section).
On Friday, January 10, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Hal Rodgers (R-OK) introduced three-day continuing resolution, intended to buy more time for the appropriations leaders from the House and Senate to finish an omnibus package to fund federal government programs for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. The leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have been working on an appropriations package in line with the Ryan-Murray budget agreement (see January 6 In Brief), but need more time before the January 15 deadline to iron out details of the omnibus spending package. Senator Mikulski's (D-MD) office has said that they are still working on the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which has the most relevance to the AUCD network. The amount of money (302(b)) allocated for the L-HHS-ED bill have also not been made public. AUCD will provide an analysis of the omnibus bill once it is made public.
Home and Community-Based Services
Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a final rule streamlining requirements across the 1915(i) State plan, 1915(c) and 1915(k) (Community First Choice) Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers. The rule greatly strengthens the requirements for personal autonomy, community integration, and increases choice in home and community-based services funded through Medicaid. It sets specific and more stringent rules for provider-owned or controlled residential settings with regard to privacy and individual autonomy and sets out a specific person-centered process for modifying these requirements if necessary. It also includes a caregiver assessment and references to natural supports, recognizing the increasing role of unpaid (usually family) caregivers. States must work with CMS to create transitional plans to bring current programs into compliance and allow for public input on those transitional plans. For more information, see AUCD's post on the rule.
The rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 16 but is available in pre-publication form. Read also this blog post by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and press release from the department.
Senate Democrats continue to try to put together a bill to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has included an amendment, similar to proposals from Senators Portman (R-OH) and Coburn (R-OK) and included in the President's budget for FY14, that would deny unemployment insurance (UI) payments to people also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance. Senator Harkin (D-IA) is strongly opposed to the provision, both because of the disincentives to work created by the change and the precedent of opening Social Security as way to offset the cost of other legislation. AUCD and CCD strongly support Senator Harkin and oppose the amendment. For more information, see this CCD fact sheet.
Receiving UI and DI is not inconsistent. People with disabilities receiving DI are encouraged to work and attempt to return to full work as much as possible. They can earn up to $1,070 a month while continuing to receive benefit payments. If a DI recipient loses a job, they are eligible for unemployment insurance just like other workers. Less than 1% of all DI and UI recipients receive concurrent benefits.
Affordable Care Act Implementation
The US Access Board's Medical Diagnostic Equipment (MDE) Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee released its report, Advancing Equal Access to Diagnostic Services: Recommendations on Standards for the Design of Medical Diagnostic Equipment for Adults with Disabilities. The report includes detailed accessibility standards for diagnostic equipment like exam tables, x-ray machines, and mammography equipment. The Affordable Care Act required the Access Board to consult with the Food and Drug Administration to develop these new standards to improve accessibility of diagnostic equipment.
Medicaid and CHIP Programs
On Thursday, January 9, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the many provisions that usually accompany legislation regarding the Sustainable Growth Rate legislation (known as the SGR or "doc fix"). With a permanent fix to the SGR on the horizon, the committee discussed the future of the programs, including the Family to Family Health Information Centers, Home Visiting, Transitional Medicaid Assistance, Express Lane Eligibility and other Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provisions. Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau testified on affected Health Resources and Services Administration programs.
CCD Annual Meeting
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) will hold its annual meeting for its 117 member organizations this Wednesday. During the meeting Members will hold elections, organize policy task forces, and discuss priorities for the coming year. The agenda also includes speakers from House and Senate leadership and the White House.
AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee
AUCD's Legislative Affairs Committee meets by phone tomorrow, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. ET. For more information, contact Kim Musheno, Director of Public Policy.
Disability Policy Seminar
Registration is now open for the Disability Policy Seminar, scheduled for April 6-8, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. During this crucial election season, we need our network in Washington, D.C. to help us build bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for high-priority disability issues. When you attend the Disability Policy Seminar, we'll arm you with all of the information you need to help educate our Members of Congress and their staff on the priorities of the I/DD community. Then, you can return to your hometowns with the ability to spread the word, educate new advocates and reach out to the candidates to help put the needs of people with I/DD front and center on the campaign trail this year. Early bird registration is open March 7. Students, trainees, and self-advocates are eligible for a discounted registration rate. Information about the schedule is coming soon.
From the AUCD legislative staff: 7 Reasons Why You Are Absolutely Required to Educate Policymakers.
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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