AUCD Legislative News InBrief

March 31, 2008

Congressional Schedule

After a two week recess the House and Senate will spend the next eight weeks before the Memorial Day recess primarily addressing war and economic issues. The Senate plans to focus on a new stimulus bill designed to help families at risk of losing their homes due to the sagging housing market.   Conferees will also being work on resolving the differences in the House and Senate Budget Resolutions.  A House subcommittee will hold a hearing this week on a Medicaid moratoria bill supported by AUCD.


FY 09 Budget

The House and Senate Democrats are expected to begin resolving their differences of the FY09 budget resolution. The major difference to be worked out by the conferees include: resolving the $3.5 billion difference in human services spending;  developing a strategy on a reconciliation package to adjust Medicare and the Alternative Minimum Tax, with or without offsets; and whether to include a second economic stimulus package.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Fiscal Policy Task Force faxed a letter to all Members of Congress on Friday urging them to pass a budget resolution that rejects the deep cuts proposed by the President's budget request and that provides sufficient funding to allow increases for research, health, education and human services programs.  CCD is also planning a congressional briefing on disability funding that will be co-sponsored by the House bipartisan Disability Caucus.  The Disability Caucus is co-chaired by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN).


FY09 Appropriations

Once the overall Budget Resolution is completed, the Congress will provide allocations and the 12 individual appropriations subcommittees will begin marking up the funding bills. AUCD is preparing written testimony on behalf of its member programs for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies.  Testimony on behalf of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers Association (IDDRCA) urges the committee to increase NIH funding by approximately 6.6% to $31.1 billion for FY 2009.  In addition, AUCD urges the committee to increase funding for NICHD by the same percentage to $1.34 billion.  AUCD is also preparing testimony on behalf of the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs asking for a $4 million and $2 million increase for those programs respectively.  The full testimony will be posted on AUCD's website the by end of this week.



This Thursday, The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing on a bill sponsored by Chairman Dingell (D-MI), Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008 (H.R. 5613), to place a one-year moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations. The bill would prohibit Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from limiting Medicaid payments for: targeted case management services, rehabilitation services, school-based transportation and outreach services, governmental providers, provider taxes, and hospital outpatient services.  AUCD issued an action alert to gain co-sponsors for this bill over the recess:  AUCD also sent a letter of support for the bill and signed on a CCD letter of support with over 40 other disability organizations. 


Mental Health Parity

A bipartisan group of 25 senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urging them to help conferees come to agreement on the mental health parity bills (S. 558, H.R. 1424).  The House passed its bill on March 5 by a 268-148 vote; the Senate approved their version unanimously last September. Both the House and Senate bills would require health plans offering mental health coverage to provide the same benefits for mental illness as they do for other medical conditions. Employers with fewer than 50 workers would be exempt under the bills. However, there are significant differences between the bills. Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Domenici (R-N.M.) offered a proposal on March 18 to the House in an attempt to produce a compromise bill.  The Kennedy/Domenici plan removes House language requiring employers to cover all illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and offers several other key changes.  AUCD supports both bills and, like the 25 Senators who wrote the letter, hopes a compromise can be worked out before the end of this Congress.


Social Security and Medicare

Last week trustees released annual reports on the financial status of Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years.  The projections are similar to last year.  The trustees report reaffirms that Social Security is structurally sound over the near term.  The program will be able to pay 100 percent of promised benefits for more than three decades - until 2041.  At that point, income will be sufficient to pay only 78 percent of benefits.  Medicare's financial problems are much more challenging.  The Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is projected to start running deficits in 2010.  Current income and trust fund reserves will be sufficient to pay all hospital insurance benefits until 2019, when reserves are projected to be depleted.   The Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund is always adequately financed because beneficiary premiums and general revenue contributions are set annually to cover expected costs.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released the following analysis of the trustee reports:


Health Care Reform

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Health Task Force was recently briefed by the National Coalition on Health Care.  This is a diverse bi-partisan coalition of more than 70 organizations.  The coalition is growing and expected to a play a significant role in debates and possibilities of bi-partisan health care reform during the transition to a new Administration.    CCD and individual disability organizations are considering joining the coalition to ensure issues and concerns from the disability community are brought to the table:


Economic Stimulus

Starting in May 2008, more than 130 million households will receive an economic stimulus payment from the Internal Revenue Service.  While most people don't need to do anything special to get a payment, millions of low-income seniors and people with disabilities, who normally do not file tax returns will need to file in order to receive a payment.  It is important to help communicate this information to individuals.  The National Women's Law Center has compiled a list of useful educational materials, including a recording of a recent webinar:§ion=tax


Autism Month/Day

There are several events taking place in recognition of Autism Awareness Month in April as well as the designation of April 2 as World Autism Day.  Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education, will hold a press conference on April 2 to commemorate the occasion and build support for the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act (S. 937/H.R. 1881) that they co-sponsor.  Smith and Doyle will also promote a bill they introduced in February, the Global Autism Assistance Act (HR 5446), to establish a global health and education grant program related to autism spectrum disorders. Cable news channel CNN plans to broadcast special coverage on the topic of autism spectrum disorders all day Wednesday. AUCD issued a press statement to bring attention to the need for community based services and supports for children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities: