AUCD Legislative News InBrief

June 9, 2008

Budget and Appropriations

Last week the Senate and House passed a final Budget Resolution for FY 2009.  The agreement provides $21 billion over the President's proposal for annual domestic spending.  This increase provides enough funding to avoid the harsh cuts contained in the President's budget and allows room for modest growth in health and human service programs.  Appropriations subcommittees expect to now begin marking up the 12 annual spending bills.  Last week, the House announced that the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to meet June 19, with full committee consideration on June 25.  However, since the President has already threatened to veto any bill that provides more funding than the Administration's budget, House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairmen have threatened to pass continuing resolutions to keep federal programs operating until there is a new President to sign those appropriations bills.  AUCD has met with key Appropriations Committee staff that are currently developing the Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations bill to educate them about the network programs.  AUCD has also led an initiative to urge appropriation to increase funding for key family support programs: Action Alert on family support funding     


War Supplemental and Medicaid

House Democratic leaders are considering a scaled back war supplemental appropriations bill to avoid a Presidential veto.  The Senate supplemental appropriations bill consists of two parts: 1) $165 billion in funding for the war, including bridge funding for the first part of the next Administration; 2) a domestic package that includes veterans' education benefits, extension of unemployment insurance benefits, aid to Gulf Coast states affected by Hurricane Katrina, a moratorium on the seven Medicaid regulations and other domestic priorities.  The House is considering striping out most of the domestic provisions.  Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) indicated last Thursday that the Senate would hold firm on the inclusion of unemployment benefits and the Medicaid moratorium.  It was reported last week that the House may consider delaying four of the seven Medicaid regulations.  In particular, the moratorium on case management services could be in jeopardy.  AUCD updated an Action Alert on the Medicaid Regulations to urge members of Congress to include the moratorium on all seven regulations in the war supplemental.  It is particularly important to contact House leadership.  Within the Action Alert is a link to the financial impact of each regulation on each state.  



The Senate is expected to consider legislation this week to prevent a scheduled 10.6% Medicare physician payment that is set to go into effect July, 1.  The $20 billion bill proposed by Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) would prevent the scheduled cuts for 18 months, provide a 1.1% increase for 2009, and provide additional Medicare provisions.  However, the major sticking point is how to pay for the physician fix.  The Administration and Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA) opposes reductions in Medicare Advantage (managed care plans).  Many Democrats have pushed hard for Medicare Advantage cuts, arguing that the private plans are overpaid and damaging to traditional Medicare. Many Republicans, however, believe that private-sector competition will eventually reduce costs.


ADA Restoration

AUCD signed on to negotiated language between the disability and business communities that will is being recommended to Congress.  The proposed language would redefine "disability" and include specific language reversing rulings in recent Supreme Court decisions that have eroded the original intent of the ADA.  At least 26 other national disability organizations have also signed on in support of the deal.   While the limited number of remaining legislative days and election year politics will pose barriers, advocates are still hopeful that a bill can be signed into law this Congress to assist thousands of individuals with disabilities who have lost protections due to court rulings. 


Office of Disability Employment Policy

AUCD staff attended a two day summit hosted by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).  The summit, Transforming the American Workplace: A 21st Century Vision, focused on advancing a comprehensive and collaborative national policy that promotes the employment of people with disabilities and the value they bring to the workplace. Neil Romano, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor and Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor were among the distinguished guests and provided the opening remarks. Other participates included self-advocates, disability organizations, and government employees.


Health Care Reform

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold the third in a series of hearings on healthcare reform. On the same day, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on disparities in health care for women, and racial and ethnic minorities. The panel will examine disparities in access to health insurance and differences in treatment for those who are covered.