AUCD Legislative News InBrief

January 7, 2008

Vol. VIII, Issue 1

Congressional Schedule

Happy New Year! Congress is still out for its winter recess. The Second Session of the 110th Congress will begin mid-January with the House of Representatives returning on January 15 and the Senate on January 22. However, the Senate has been holding pro-forma sessions to prevent recess appointments by the President. The President's State of the Union address is currently scheduled for January 28.


On Dec. 26, President Bush signed into law the Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill, combining funds for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills. The bill provides a $3.7 million increase for the UCEDDs and a significant percentage increase for the LEND programs (see the full report here). Congress had finalized the bill just hours before adjourning the first session of the 110th Congress the week of Dec. 18; however, the President waited a full week to sign the bill into law. The bill that was signed was the third omnibus package put together by Democratic leaders. The two previous bills were vetoed and threatened to be vetoed respectively because they contained more money for discretionary programs than were proposed by the President. The final bill provided level funding for many disability and social services programs but these programs were actually cut after an across-the-board rescission of 1.7 percent was applied to most discretionary programs in order to stay within the President's spending cap.


On December 29, 2007, President Bush signed legislation (S. 2499) increasing Medicare reimbursement to physicians and extending funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program through March 2009. The Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 passed the Senate Dec. 18 and the House Dec. 19. The law provides doctors a 0.5 percent payment increase through June 30, cancelling a 10 percent cut scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Congress must address the issue again mid-year to avoid another payment cut for doctors from taking effect July 1. Advocates were successful in adding a six-month delay on the implementation of proposed Medicaid regulations from CMS related to school-based services and rehabilitation services. However, prior to the President signing the bill with the 6-month moratorium, the Administration issued a final rule late Friday night before the holiday break to implement the new rule (see the regulation here [pdf]). It is now unclear how the new law and the final rule will affect the reimbursement of those Medicaid services. The new law also contains numerous provisions extending current Medicare payment policies, including an extension to June 30 of the nursing home therapy cap exception, a permanent freeze at 60 percent of the compliance threshold for inpatient rehabilitation facilities, regulatory relief for long-term care hospitals, and extension of the qualified individual, or QI program.

Community Choice Act

A hearing on the Community Choice Act and other long-term services and supports issues is scheduled for Wed., January 16, 2008 in the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Higher Education Act

The House of Representatives is scheduled to consider the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) soon after returning from recess. It was approved by the House Committee on Education and Labor on Dec. 19. The Senate passed its bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (S.1642) on July 24. A side-by-side comparing the disability provisions in both bills is now available on the AUCD Postsecondary Education webpage.

Disability Policy Seminar

An invitation to register for the 2008 Disability Policy Seminar, Advancing Disability Policy in an Election Year (March 2-4), was emailed to the network on Dec. 21. For all the information you need to register for the event and hotel, please visit the AUCD website. The deadline to register without financial penalty is Feb. 7. AUCD hopes that you plan to attend this exciting association-sponsored event.

Mental Health Parity

The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA) will expire Dec. 31, 2008, the Congressional Research Service noted in a report made available Jan. 2 tracing past and current legislative action on the issue.

The report, The Mental Health Parity Act: A Legislative History (Order Code RL33820), provides a detailed history of mental health parity legislation, including a discussion of bills introduced in each Congress and accompanying legislative action, including hearings, markups, and floor votes. View the report here.