AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 6, 2009

Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate have returned from their week-long 4th of July Recess. Both chambers are looking towards full schedules, especially as each works on plans for health care reform. Democratic leaders are working on a range of other issues to meet the president's other legislative goals this summer and fall that include legislation related to climate change, education, transportation, financial regulation, and annual appropriations. Even with the Democrats' 255-178 majority in the House and now 60-vote majority in the Senate, they know the challenge is daunting. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) will be sworn in helping the Democrats reach the 60 filibuster proof majority if all Democrats vote together.  He will be appointed to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Judiciary Committees. 

Health Care

The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to resume mark up of it health reform bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act, tomorrow.  The Committee is expected to begin with the section of the bill that incorporates the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.  Following the CLASS Act the Committee will mark up other sections of bill concerning coverage.  Last week the HELP Committee released additional information on the coverage section along with cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The new CBO estimate forecasts the HELP Committee bill to cost approximately $611 billion over 10 years and would cover 90% of Americans.  The estimate does not include an assumed expansion of Medicaid to individuals making less than 150% of the federal poverty level which is under jurisdiction of the Finance Committee.  When the Senate bills are merged and this piece is added, the cost will be close to $1 trillion over 10 years and cover approximately 97% of the population.  The HELP Committee bill includes a public plan option to compete with private plans, an individual mandate, and an employer mandate.   Businesses with 25 or more employees that do not offer insurance would have to pay the government $750 per worker per year, or $375 for part-time workers. Those with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt from the requirement.  The mark up will begin at 10a.m. EST tomorrow and continue the rest of the week.  To watch a live stream of the mark up go to the Committee website: 

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance and House Committee continue drafting their bills and anticipate to begin consideration of the bills next week.  Last week, AUCD staff and others met with House staff concerning recommendations on promoting wellness and reducing health disparities for individuals with disabilities. AUCD also signed on to a coalition letter of support concerning the inclusion of the Tri-Caucus bill on health disparities in the House health reform bill.      

Long-Term Services and Supports

The CLASS Act is expected to be considered first at the Senate HELP Committee mark up.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the CLASS Act would reduce the cost of the overall health reform package by approximately $58 billion over 10 years, approximately $2.5 billion of which would come from savings to Medicaid.  CBO also indicated that the program would be sustainable over time.  Last week, the CCD Long-Term Services and Supports Task Force sent letter to the White House Office on Health Reform reiterating CCD's strong support for the CLASS Act and Medicaid reforms to correct the institutional bias.  CCD also sent a letter of support for the CLASS Act to all members of the HELP Committee.  Several amendments are anticipated during mark up, some of which will aim to strike the CLASS Act from the bill.     

Advocates in Montana organized a series of events across the state during the Independence Day recess to urge Senator Baucus (D-MT) to include long-term services and supports in health reform, in particular the Community Choice Act.  The events picked us some excellent media coverage, some of which is available on You Tube: KPAX coverage of Missoula rally and Beartooth NBC coverage of Helena rally.   Visit the AUCD Action Center to send e-mail messages on the Community Choice Act and CLASS Act and continue to contact members of Congress. 

SEIU is hosting a national call-in day tomorrow in support of health reform.  You can make your voice heard by contacting your members of Congress.  Call in support of health reform in general and reform that includes long-term services and supports for individuals with disabilities and seniors.  A toll free number is available 1-866-210-3678.  Do you know a family member or neighbor who has struggled to get quality, affordable healthcare, including long-term services and supports? Tell their story. Or, talk about concerns you have about the rising cost of healthcare.  Explain that healthcare won't be ?xed until it's affordable for everyone in our community.

HHS Rescinds Medicaid Regulations

AUCD and other disability advocates were extremely pleased when Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced on June 29 that the Administration will rescind all or part of three Medicaid regulations that were previously issued and delay the enforcement of a fourth regulation. These include the regulations related to 1) school-based administrative costs and costs of transportation to and from schools; 2) the outpatient hospital and clinic service benefit for Medicaid beneficiaries; 3) case management services; and 4) a regulation that clarified limitations on health care related tax programs.  Each of these rules, in whole or in part, had been subject to congressional moratoria set to expire on July 1. AUCD and other advocates worked hard to prevent then to advocate for a delay of these extremely harmful Medicaid regulations. More information is available from this press release from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

House Health Care Reform Letter

The pressure to lower the cost of House health care reform bill could lead lawmakers to inadvertently modify two programs that may negatively impact individuals with disabilities. AUCD signed onto to a letter of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to House leadership citing serious concerns with a proposed offset in the House Tri-Committee proposal which would eliminate the Medicare first-month purchase option for beneficiaries requiring power wheelchairs, thereby forcing beneficiaries to rent their mobility for thirteen months before they can own the devices. In addition, the letter notes concern about the proposal's failure to include coverage of assistive devices and related services that enable individuals with disabilities to facilitate their recovery and restore their ability to function and live as independently as possible.


AUCD worked in collaboration with the CCD Education taskforce and signed on to a letter promoting the passage of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (HR 2740).  This legislation is sponsored by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pete Sessions (R-TX) override the ruling of the US Supreme Court which found that parents cannot be reimbursed for expert witness fees incurred as part of the due process proceedings. This decision disregarded Congress' clearly-expressed intent that parents should recover expert fees just like attorneys fees. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would make the process more equitable for parents of children with disabilities.  The full letter is available on the AUCD public policy website.

On July 8 the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education and Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on "Strengthening School Safety through Prevention of Bullying,".

Housing Funding

On June 22, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the opportunity for the public to submit comments in response to a draft proposed Notice of Funding Availability for rental assistance for non-elderly persons with disabilities. This draft NOFA announces the future availability of $30 million in funding for approximately 4,000 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) for non-elderly disabled households. These vouchers were appropriated by Congress in FY 2009. HUD is requesting comments addressing the threshold factors used to distribute assistance, whether HUD should establish a more performance-based method for distributing vouchers, and how the State institutional transition program, including Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration grants, can work effectively with Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) awarded vouchers. Comments are due to HUD by July 13, 2009.  The initiative to target a portion of new HCV to people living unnecessarily in restrictive settings was suggested to HUD officials by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force in 2008 and again in 2009. The NOFA is online at .

Autism Services

The Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009 (HR 2413 and S819) now has 22 co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate.  The House bill has bipartisan support with 8 Republican co-sponsors. The bills are nearly identical and specifically mention interdisciplinary training to increase the number of professionals skilled to work with individuals with ASD.  Both bills have been referred to committee but have not yet been scheduled for markup.  AUCD submitted suggestions to improve and strengthen the bills. The bills need more bipartisan co-sponsors to help move the bill.  For more information and a sample letter to write to your Member about this bill, see AUCD's Action Center alert.

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