AUCD Legislative News InBrief

March 10, 2008

Budget and Appropriations

The House and Senate will begin debating their respective FY 09 Budget Resolutions this week.  The House Budget Committee passed their plan on Wednesday followed by the Senate Budget Committee approval of its plan Thursday. Though the two resolutions are similar on overall spending and tax issues, there are some significant differences that could protract negotiations in a conference committee. Both plans restore many of the spending cuts in Bush's proposed budget to domestic programs. It rejects the massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, restores the 16 percent cut to CDC, provides more money for NIH research, and more funds for Social Security to address the huge backlog of disability claims.  Both plans assume the expiration in 2010 of Bush's tax cuts, mainly tilted to higher-income taxpayers, in order to free up more revenue for their spending priorities.  AUCD drafted a letter on behalf of the CCD Fiscal Policy Task Force in support of the Democratic leadership plan. President Bush has already said he will veto any of those spending bills that reflect the budget resolution's priorities. It is possible that because of this veto threat, the Democrats may wait until Bush leaves office next Jan. 20 and hope for the election in November of a Democratic president to sign the bill.



The proposed House and Senate FY09 Budget Resolutions include deficit-neutral reserve funds to give Congress flexibility to address the Administration's harmful proposed Medicaid regulations.  However, it is important to note that reserve funds do not actually provide new money.  Under "paygo" rules, Congress would still need to identify funds to pay for any moratorium that would delay regulations.  Representative Dingell (D-MI) and Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) are planning to introduce legislation that will include moratoria on all 7 Medicaid regulations in one bill.  These bills will serve primarily as a way to organize grassroots support.  At the end of the day, it is anticipated that moratoria to address different regulations will likely be split up and placed on must-pass legislation.  While all regulations are important due to the significant cost shifts they will impose on states, the disability community is most directly impacted by the Medicaid rehabilitation, school-based services, and case management regulations.  The war supplemental and the Medicare physician payment fix are potential must-pass legislation that could provide vehicles for these regulations.  Senator Coleman (R-MN) has introduced a bill (S. 2578) that would place a moratorium on the case management regulation that would delay implementation until April 1, 2009.  Additional co-sponsors are needed on the bill.  Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report estimating the state-by-state impact of each of the 7 Medicaid Regulations:  Not all states responded and data was submitted by state Mediciad officials, so the estimated impact is much larger than the Administration's estimate.  However, this is an excellent resource that highlights the widespread impact of the Regulations on states.   The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also has updated a fact sheet with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates of savings from the Medicaid regulations:



 On February 17 Reps. Langevin (D-RI) and Ramstad (R-MN) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to all Members of the House requesting them to sign onto a letter in support of the highest possible funding level for the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs. To date, 15 Representatives has signed on. AUCD sent multiple alerts to the network to make contact with their Representatives. The deadline for signing the letter is Tuesday, March 11. The final letter will be sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education.


Lifespan Respite Care Act

Last week a "Dear Colleague" from Representatives Langevin (D- RI) and Ferguson (R- NJ) was sent to all Members of the House requesting them to sign onto a letter that will be sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education to fund the Lifespan Respite Act. The law authorizes Congress to spend up to $53.3 million in FY 09. To date 13 Members have agreed to sign onto the letter. The Lifespan Respite Care Act was signed into law in 2006, but has so far not received any federal funding.


Mental Health Parity

Last week the House passed the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act (H.R. 1424) by a vote of 268-148.  The Senate passed a similar bill (S. 558) last year.  Both bills require health plans to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses and disabilities.   However, a key difference between the bills is that the House bill would cover a broader range of conditions, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).  While there is Democratic support in the House, there is opposition to the bill from businesses and some Senate Republicans.  Before the House vote last week, the White House issued a statement in opposition to the House bill, tacitly supporting the Senate version.  House leaders also tacked on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) under a section of the Mental Health parity bill.  GINA overwhelmingly passed the House last April, but has stalled in the Senate due to a "hold" on the bill by Senator Coburn (R-OK). AUCD is supporting the strongest possible mental health parity bill.


Newborn Screening & Reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act

The House Energy and Commerce, Health Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act (H.R. 3825) and Reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act (H.R. 1418) on Tuesday.  The Senate passed both these bills by unanimous consent in December.  


Policy Seminar

Last week, over 500 people with disabilities, advocates, providers and other professionals from around the country attended the 37th  Annual Disability Policy Seminar sponsored by AUCD, The Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD).   Over 100 individuals form the AUCD network attended.  Approximately half of the AUCD attendees were UCEDD and LEND students and trainees representing a variety of disciplines, such as nutrition, occupational therapy, psychology, social work, and special education, attended the seminar.  Policy experts from national organizations and agencies, as well as congressional staff provided updates on current legislative issues.  On the third day of the seminar attendees went to the Hill to meet with their state congressional delegations and educate them about the needs of individuals with disabilities and families in their states.  Connie Garner, Policy Director for Disability and Special Populations for Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) was the recipient of the first annual Leadership in Disability Policy Award.  Bill Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion in Boston, Massachusetts and AUCD President, assisted in presenting the award on behalf of all the sponsors.  Power point presentations and facts sheets prepared for the seminar are available at: