AUCD Legislative News InBrief

September 15, 2008

Congressional Schedule

The House will take up a number of bills under suspension of the rules this week, including the ADA Amendments Act (S. 3406) but most of the rest of the week will be spent on energy policy.  The Senate will continue working on the defense reauthorization bill before also turning to energy policy.  Congressional leaders will also have to develop a strategy for passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government programs running since not a single annual appropriations bill has been enacted into law and the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.


ADA Restoration

Last Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the ADA Restoration Act (S. 3406) by unanimous consent.  The bill is similar to bipartisan legislation introduced in the House by Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) that passed by a 402-17 margin in July.   The Senate version is slightly different than the House bill. Under current law, a disability is a physical or mental condition that "substantially" limits one or more major life activity.  The House bill would have included a condition that "materially restricts" one or more major life activities.  House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD), who sponsored the House bill, said the change was acceptable but could weaken the bill's implementation. "I'm not as confident that the Supreme Court can't somehow misconstrue it," Hoyer said.  The House plans to take up the Senate version and pass it under suspension this Wednesday.


Economic Stimulus

Congress may consider a second economic stimulus bill that could include financial assistance to state governments by increasing Medicaid reimbursements in exchange for states not cutting eligibility.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 29 states had budget deficits in FY 09 and at least 13 have already enacted or are contemplating cuts to health programs.  AUCD signed on to a large coalition letter urging inclusions of Medicaid and state fiscal relief in an economic package.  AUCD also signed a letter encouraging the inclusion of additional funding for NIH in a second economic stimulus package.  The first economic package this year totaled $150 billion, mostly in tax rebates.  This time Congress is looking to provide about $50 billion in aid, including funding for infrastructure projects.  The House is expected to act on the package first.  Things are uncertain in the Senate and timing will be difficult since Congress is expected to adjourn September 26.  



Last week Senator Clinton (D-NY) and Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to President Bush urging the Administration to not implement a proposed Medicaid regulation concerning outpatient services.  This Medicaid regulation was the only one not included in the moratorium passed within the supplemental war appropriations bill (H.R. 2642) earlier this year to delay implementation of six harmful Medicaid regulations until April 2009.  The proposed rule narrows the scope of outpatient services covered by Medicaid, which would lead to lower payments to health clinics and hospital outpatient services.  If implemented, it would impact University Centers and other clinics that provide outpatient services to individuals with disabilities.


Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health testified on Sept. 10 before the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee during an oversight hearing on the NIH Reform Act in 2006. His testimony focused on progress made over the last two years and attributed these successes to the reforms made in the NIH Reform Act.  He reported that the Common Fund authorized under the Act is facilitating trans-NIH research.  Several committee Members, including Chairman Pallone (D-NJ), praised Zerhouni for the research progress at NIH, but also expressed concern about the effect of flat funding over the past few years on future efforts.  Several Members also stated their concerns about losing young researchers because of lack of sufficient funding. The entire written testimony is linked to the Committee website:


Mental Health Parity

Passage of the Mental Health Parity Act (H.R. 1424/S. 558) is still a priority for Congress before recessing.  House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on important portions of a long-stalled draft bill. It now up to the leadership to make time for final passage in the short two weeks left in this Congress. Negotiators are also still trying to come to agreement on how to pay for the $3.4 million package.  Senators on both sides of the aisle have expressed desires to restrict the physicians' practice of self-referral to hospitals they have a financial stake in, but are looking for less controversial offsets.  AUCD sent an action alert on this issue last week. Advocacy groups are also planning a rally on Capitol Hill this tomorrow to promote passage before Congress adjourns.


Higher Education Act

AUCD hosted a webinar last Thursday on the disability provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 that was signed into law on August 14, 2008. The reauthorization contains new and revised provisions that will significantly improve postsecondary opportunities and supports for students with disabilities, including students with intellectual disabilities. In addition, there are also key provisions to improve preparation of teachers and professionals in K-12 education. This webinar provided an overview of these disability provisions and information concerning next steps on appropriations and implementation.  Panelists included Sharon Lewis, Disability Policy Advisor, House Committee on Education & Labor, Stephanie Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, National Policy Center, National Down Syndrome Society, and Jane West, Vice President, Government and External Relations, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.  The power point from the presentation can be accessed on the AUCD website:


Oral Health
Last week, the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) announced that it has awarded 16 grants totaling almost $2.7 million to states to increase access to oral health care among medically underserved Americans. In FY 08, Congress appropriated nearly $3 million dollars to Grants to States to Support Oral Health Workforce Activities program. The initiative develops dental disease prevention efforts in communities designated as dental health professional shortage areas in 16 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As a result, the grant program, which began in fiscal 2006 with a $2 million appropriation, now has total awards of $5 million. The 16 new awards were made as part of a one-year initiative to help grantees develop more plans for oral health projects in communities with the greatest need. For more information see HRSA's Bureau of Health Professions.


Health Care

On Sept. 16, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), will continue its hearings on various aspects of health care reform.  Tomorrow's hearing is titled "Aligning Incentives: The Case for Delivery System Reform." On Sept. 18, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), will hold a hearing on "America's Need for Health Reform".


AUCD Disability Policy Fellowship

AUCD is now accepting applications for the 2009 Disability Policy Fellowship. The purpose of this year-long fellowship is to offer a significant experience in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  Staff working for at least 2-5 years at a network program, or graduate trainees who are completing their training program are eligible for the position.  Applications are due September 29, 2008 and the position will be filled early in 2009.  More information is on the AUCD website at the following link:


For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: