AUCD Legislative News InBrief

July 21, 2008

Economic Stimulus

Over the past weeks Democrats have increased calls for a second economic stimulus package.  The Senate is expected to take up a package this week in the $50 billion range and could include provisions such as funding for infrastructure, additional tax rebates for the middle class, increased food stamp benefits, low-income assistance for the purchase of home heating oil, another extension of unemployment benefits, and increased aid to states for Medicaid.  Proposals for a temporary increase to Medicaid were not included in the first economic stimulus package.  Additional aid for the National Institutes of Health might end up in the package.  Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Specter (R-PA) have introduced stand alone legislation to provide NIH with $5.2 billion, including $1.2 billion to be directed to the National Cancer Institute.  They are attempting to include $500 million for NIH in the economic stimulus package.     



Last Tuesday the House and Senate voted to override President Bush's veto of a Medicare bill (H.R. 6331) to prevent a scheduled cut in physicians' payments.  The House voted 383-41 to override the veto, picking up 30 votes more than the original vote on the bill June 24.  The Senate later voted 70-26 to override the veto.  The bill prevents a scheduled 10.6 percent cut to Medicare's physician pay rates for 18 months.  Costs are offset by cutting payments to private Medicare Advantage plans.  In addition to the prevention of the physician payment cut, there are several other important provisions that benefit individuals with disabilities.  The therapy cap exceptions process for PT, OT, and speech is extended for 18 months.  The controversial CMS competitive bidding process for durable medical equipment in delayed for 18 months.  Greater mental health parity is provided in Medicare by phasing in reimbursements from 50% to 80%.  The disability community worked hard to secure these victories in the bill.  The CCD Health Task Force is drafting thank you letters to Hill champions on the Medicare bill.


ADA Amendments Act

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Senator Harkin (D-IA), convened a public roundtable on July 15. Senators Enzi (R-WY), Hatch (R-UT), Murray (D-WA), and Roberts (R-KS) were also in attendance. The roundtable provided an informal format to clarify areas of ambiguity including the definition of "materially restricts" and its impact on K-12 schools. Senator Harkin also questioned the broad construct of the House bill and how the courts would interpret the language. The HELP Committee is scheduled to meet and resolve any issues with the House version and send a bipartisan bill to the Senate Floor in September under the leadership of committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The witness testimonies and to view the roundtable discussion are on the committee website. 



AUCD and Easter Seals are collaborating to present to state legislators on the issue of autism at their upcoming annual Legislative Summit in New Orleans.  AUCD Autism Special Interest Group Chair, Cathy Pratt (Indiana UCEDD), will also be presenting at the event scheduled for Thursday, July 24.  AUCD and the Louisiana UCEDD will also be hosting a joint exhibit at the Summit. NCSL expects approximately 3,000 legislators, staff and their families at the event. For more information, see the NCSL program at:


Ohio Presidential Forum

The Ohio Presidential forum will take place this Saturday, July 26 -coinciding with the 18th Anniversary of the ADA.  The campaign staff of John McCain for President confirmed that the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party will be participating in the National Forum on Disability Issues in Columbus, Ohio via satellite link from Arizona. The Obama campaign confirmed that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will attend the National Forum in person as the surrogate for Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the presumptive nominee for the Democrat Party. Senator Obama will be out of the country on the day of the forum with a congressional delegation.  AUCD encourages University Centers to organize viewing parties to view the live webcast.  Directions on viewing the webcast are at the following link: