AUCD Legislative News InBrief

November 17, 2008

Congressional Schedule

Congress returns for a lame-duck session this week with plans to tackle several banking and economic issues. A number of hearings also are scheduled regarding matters involving the transition to a new Congress and a new presidential administration.


Economic Stimulus

Last week House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) held a hearing concerning a second economic stimulus package. Part of the discussion included providing increased funding for Medicaid and NIH in the stimulus package.  Former Clinton economic advisor Gene Sperling and Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) called for an increase of $40 to $50 billion over two years for Medicaid.  The National Governors Association (NGA) released a paper calling for at least $20 billion.  Pallone indicated after the hearing that he will urge a $14 billion Medicaid infusion over 18 months, stating President Bush's opposition to a greater amount.  Republican opposition to including aid to the auto industry could push passage of the stimulus bill until early next year.  Waiting until the new Congress could create an opportunity for larger Medicaid spending, but a number of economists say Congress should act quickly to address the faltering economy. 


Health Care Reform

Last week, Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) released a white paper that outlines a  vision for comprehensive health care reform next year: Call to Action: Health Reform 2009.  Earlier in the week, the CCD Health and Long-Term services and Supports Task Forces sent a letter to Chairman Baucus indicating priorities for health care reform.  Many of the CCD recommendations were included in the Baucus plan.  Similar to President-Elect Obama's plan, the Baucus plan creates a national Health Insurance exchange that would allow Americans to purchase coverage, preclude discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and provide premium subsidies to families and small businesses.  The plan also builds on public programs.  It would allow Americans 55-64 to temporarily buy into Medicare, eliminate the 2-year Medicare waiting period for individuals with disabilities, strengthen SCHIP, and provide all Americans under the federal poverty level access to Medicaid.  A number of payment and quality reforms are highlighted, including chronic care management and use of health information technology.  The plan also includes a placeholder for long-term care reform. Senator Baucus has scheduled a hearing on "Health Care Reform: An Economic Perspective." on Wednesday, November 19.      


HELP Committee Agenda

AUCD staff and other members of the disability community were invited to a briefing last week with senior staff of Senator Ted Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Staff provided updates on key priorities for the committee in the first session of the 111th Congress. Sen. Kennedy plans to return today after recuperating from major surgery due to a brain tumor. It is clear that comprehensive health care reform is his number one priority and will take a lot of time and energy. Staff mentioned that Sen. Kennedy is working with Chairman Baucus and other members of the HELP and Finance Committees to develop bipartisan consensus on health care reform. Other priorities included the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act that has been stalled; the reauthorization of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Act. No Child Left Behind Act and the DD Act were mentioned but not listed as top priorities. For more information contact Kim Musheno at [email protected].


Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

AUCD staff and other members of the disability community were invited to a roundtable discussion of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety staff on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that includes the Rehabilitation Act. The purpose of the discussion was to elicit feedback regarding what is working and should be refined and retained; what key challenges need to be addressed; and to consider innovative policy ideas for the next draft bill to reauthorize WIA. AUCD will continue to monitor and provide support to congressional staff on the reauthorization of WIA and the Rehabilitation Act.


Legislative Goals

AUCD will be joining The Arc, UCP, AAIDD and ANCOR this week to develop joint Legislative Goals for the 111th Congress.  Every year these partnering organizations develop long and short versions of our goals outlining key disability public policy priorities.  AUCD will be represented at the meeting by AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee member Fred Orelove (VA UCEDD) as well as staff of AUCD.  When they are final, these goals will be delivered to every Member of Congress and used during the Disability Policy Seminar and throughout the year in our advocacy efforts.  AUCD will also begin developing its own legislative goals at the December meeting of the Legislative Affairs Committee.


AUCD Annual Meeting

AUCD recently concluded a highly successful association meeting and conference that opened with a video of President-elect Barack Obama and concluded with an uplifting presentation by a member of the new Administration's Transition Team, Michael Strautmanis, Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs.  The panel also included Nathan Gonzales from the Rothenberg Political Report, who highlighted the recent election outcomes for disability policy; Marty Ford, Chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities who summarized CCD's recommendations for the Obama Transition Team (see CCD below); and Julio Abreu, Director of Public Policy of Mental Health America, who provided an outlook on budget and appropriations in the coming year.


Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)

AUCD joined other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to develop disability policy recommendations that were transmitted to the Obama Transition Team today.  A second, shorter document will also accompany the recommendations which will outline priorities that could be achieved quickly in the first few months of the new Congress. These recommendations will also be used to educate the new and incumbent members of the 111th Congress Visit the AUCD public policy web page to view the document.