AUCD Legislative News In Brief Special Report on Health Care Reform

July 24, 2009


pdf File Side by Side Legislation Comparison Table (100KB) [download]

pdf File Side by Side Written Analysis (190KB) [download]

Progress Update

The goal for the Democrats and the President has been to pass a health care reform bill before leaving for the August recess.  However, after a late night mark up session Monday, the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA),  recessed for the rest of last week to facilitate negotiations with the coalition of 'Blue Dog' (fiscally conservative Democrats) on the Committee.  Without the support of the nine Blue Dogs, the committee does not have the votes to win passage.  The House Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees have already approved their bills and are ready to merge with the E&C Committee bill when it is completed.

In the Senate, the HELP Committee approved its bill but the Finance Committee has yet to release its version of the health reform bill. Chairman Baucus (D-MT) has continued to hold meetings with his committee throughout the week in hopes of creating a bipartisan bill. However, on Thursday Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) reluctantly confirmed that no health reform bill will be voted on by the full Senate before September.

President Obama's Press Conference

The president addressed the nation about health care reform in a press conference Wednesday night, hoping to use the "bully pulpit" to win the support of the public. President Obama emphasized the importance of reform to the recovery of the economy and sought to reassure Americans that health care reform would benefit not just the uninsured, but all Americans through its cost-saving delivery reforms.  The President has been increasing his involvement in the health reform debate in the last few weeks, including not only communication with the public, but also communication with key legislators in both the House and the Senate.

Long-Term Services and Supports

The House Energy and Commerce Committee continued its mark up America's Affordable Health Choices Act last Monday. Representative Pallone (D-NJ) introduced an amendment containing the CLASS Act, which was agreed to by the committee. The inclusion of the CLASS Act in the Energy and Commerce bill, as well as in the bill passed by the Senate HELP Committee, makes the program's ultimate inclusion in the final bill increasingly likely. 

Autism Training Grants

Also during Monday's markup, the Committee agreed, by voice vote, on an amendment proposed by Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) to include a section of the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (ATAA) to provide autism training grants. The amendment authorizes multiyear national training initiatives supplemental grants to University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), public or private nonprofit entity, or other comparable interdisciplinary service, training, and academic entities, to provide training, continuing education initiatives, technical assistance, and services to address the unmet needs of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities.  Rep. Doyle may introduce a separate amendment related to insurance coverage of autism services when the committee resumes its markup.  AUCD sent a letter thanking Rep. Doyle for championing this important amendment.

Medicare Reform

In a meeting with President Obama last Tuesday, Energy and Commerce Chairman Waxman agreed to support an Independent Medicare Advisory Commission, which would have the power to control Medicare spending, such as reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals. This cost-saving measure, which would base reimbursement on physician performance rather than the number of procedures performed, is intended, in part, to appease the cost conscious coalition of Blue Dog Democrats on the committee. Doug Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Blue Dogs that this council would be the single best way to rein in Medicare costs over time.

Additional Materials

Please see AUCD's more detailed analysis and table comparing the major provisions of the health care reform bills to date. AUCD has also posted an action alert on our Action Center urging passage of the Affordable Health Choices Act.