AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 8, 2009

Health Care Reform

The Senate HELP Committee is on target to mark up legislation on health care reform before the July 4th recess.  More information about what the HELP Committee is considering is being reported.  Last Friday, a 171-page draft emerged, which primarily outlines plans for expanding coverage.  The draft bill develops an exchange for individuals in the non-group market to purchase insurance, modeled on the Massachusetts Connector.  Private plans participating in the exchange would be highly regulated and there would be a public plan option.  The government would subsidize premiums for low- and middle-income families earning up to five times the federal poverty level.   The draft bill proposes to expand Medicaid to cover families earning up to 1.5 times the poverty level, about $33,000 for a family of four.  The draft also includes the CLASS Act to establish a national program to finance long-term services and supports.  Many details were not included, such as financing health care reform and sections on the delivery system and prevention and wellness.  The full bill will likely emerge within the next week or so as the Committee heads towards mark up.   

Last week President Obama sent a letter Senators Kennedy and Baucus indicating the White House's preference for a public plan option.  The letter sparked reaction from Senate Republicans.  Debate also continues about how best to finance health care reform.  CCD submitted a response to the Senate Finance Committee concerning options for financing health reform, however, has not yet weighted in on some of the more controversial options.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a brief on limiting the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health care.  The brief provides a good overview of the difficulty and options being considered to finance reform that will cost at least $1 trillion over 10 years.  Also last week, the White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report making the economic case for health care reform.    

Long-Term Services and Supports

Staff, students, trainees, individuals with disabilities, and families within the AUCD network joined thousands of others in making calls last week to the House urging inclusion of long-term services and supports in health care reform.  While we do not have an official count yet on the number of calls made, we have heard from Hill staff that is made a significant impact.  Aging and disability organizations are planning another major grassroots effort over the July 4th recess.  Stayed tuned for more information. 

The HELP Committee is holding a press briefing today on long-term services and supports and health care reform.  CCD released a press release for today's briefing that applauds the work of Senators Kennedy and Harkin on the CLASS Act and Community Choice Act and efforts to include long-term services and supports in health care reform.  Major newspapers will attend the briefing.  The disability community plans to pack the historic Senate Caucus room to show support.   

The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities (NLCDD) has issued a brief on health care reform and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The brief was prepared by Bob Gettings and analyzes options for long-term services and supports in health care reform, primarily from a state perspective.  There are also additional briefs and resources on the CCD website analyzing different aspects of health care reform from a disability perspective.                      

Lifespan Respite Care

The Administration on Aging released the program announcement on June 3 for competitive grants opportunity for implementing the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-716).  The AoA plans to fund approximately 10-15 state grants with funding awards up to $200,000 for 36 months.  Eligible state agencies funded under this announcement shall use grant funds for the purposes of planning, establishing and expanding/enhancing Lifespan Respite Care systems in the states, including new and planned emergency respite services, training and recruiting respite workers and volunteers and assisting caregivers with gaining access to needed services. University Centers would be eligible to apply if it acts as the state's aging and disability resource center or is designated by the Governor as the eligible entity.  Successful applicants must coordinate with other disability organizations in the state with expertise in respite care. The announcement specifically states that Programs must, from the outset, address the respite needs of all age and disability/special needs populations.  No phase-in or preferences for specific age groups or disability categories will be permitted. Funding details can be found on the Administration on Aging website. There will also be a national teleconference to assist in writing the proposal and answer questions on June 10 at 2pm (Eastern); Number:  1-888-831-8978 (Toll Free)  Participant Pass Code:  52871. The deadline date for submission of applications is July 29, 2009. 

National Service

AUCD and NSIP held a webinar to elicit comments on the implementation of the Serve America Act from the UCEDD and LEND network. The call will be archived until July 5.  Information on accessing the call is available by emailing [email protected]. AUCD staff are writing up a letter with the comments received. This letter will be circulated to UCEDD and LEND directors for comments and signatures. Another letter will be available for anyone to use. If you are interested in leaving a comment directly with CNCS, you can do so at: 

Jackie Norris, Michelle Obama's chief of staff, has been appointed as the senior adviser to the Corporation for National and Community Service.  In this post Norris will still work with the First Lady and Obama administration to implement the Serve America Act. AUCD Staff also held a webinar to gather comments related to service legislation.  These materials will be posted on the AUCD website. 

Bullying Act

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the "Bullying and Gang Reduction for Improved Education Act" (HR 1589). The bill seeks to amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and includes language that addresses bullying and gang reduction.  Currently there is limited language in the bill addressing bullying of students with disabilities.  

Home Visitation/Early Intervention

Reps. McDermott (D-WA), Davis (D-IL), and Platts (R-PA) introduced the "Early Support for Families Act" (H.R. 2667).  The bill authorizes grants to states to establish or expand quality programs providing home visitation for families with young children and families expecting children.  Chairman McDermott will also hold a hearing to review proposals to provide funding for grants to States to support early childhood home visitation programs.  

Department of Justice

Attorney General, Eric Holder, head of the U.S. Department of Justice, issued a Department-wide call to hire and promote persons with targeted disabilities to fill positions for which they qualify within the various Department components.  The Attorney General's Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities urges job-seekers may include a copy of this memo in their applications as a reminder to hiring authorities of the call to action issued by the Attorney General.