AUCD Legislative News In Brief

August 10, 2009

Congressional Schedule

The Senate has begun its recess and along with the House will return to Washington on September 8. During the recess, staff working on health care reform will try to sort out the significant differences between the various bills and continue to negotiate bipartisan agreements (see AUCD side-by-side of the bills to date).  Please share AUCD's Action Alert during the recess to help move the process and ensure that important reforms that impact people with disabilities remain in the final package.


The House has completed work on its version of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill.  In the Senate, the full Committee passed its bill; however, it must be considered by the full Senate - hopefully soon after Members return from the August recess. The Senate bill generally provides more funding for programs important to the AUCD network.  A full analysis with a table comparing the House and Senate numbers is now on AUCD's website.

Health Care

Four of the five House and Senate committees have completed work on health care reform bills.  The Senate Finance Committee's so-called "Gang of Six" -- three Democrats (Bingaman (D-NM), Conrad (D-ND) and Chairman Baucus (D-MT) and three Republicans (Grassley (R-IA), Enzi (R-WY) and Snowe (R-ME)-- are working behind closed doors to come to agreement on a bipartisan bill.  They hope to markup and pass a bill the 2nd or 3rd week of September.  The House will be working over the August recess to merge its three bills into one so that it can be considered by the full House in September.  There are many important provisions that will impact people with disabilities in these bills, including the elimination of the prohibition on pre-existing conditions; addition of CLASS Act; focus on prevention services, including a dedicated Public Health Trust Fund; expansion of Medicaid; provisions for accessible medical diagnostic equipment; and insurance coverage for autism treatment and grants for autism training. See AUCD's health care update and table comparing the disability provisions in each of the bills.

 Autism in Health Care

On July 31, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed Representative Mike Doyle's (D-PA) autism insurance reform amendment to the "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009," H.R. 3200, prohibiting discrimination in benefits against persons with autism.  During the July 20 markup of H.R. 3200, Rep. Doyle succeeded in passing an amendment to provide supplemental grants for interdisciplinary training of professionals, to develop model demonstrations in services, and provide technical assistance in autism spectrum disorders and other related developmental disabilities.  The Senate HELP and Finance Committee bills do not have similar language.  AUCD will work to ensure that this language remains in any final health care reform bill that becomes law.

 Senate Appropriations Hearing on Autism

AUCD staff attended a hearing sponsored by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on August 5 titled "Autism Research, Treatments and Interventions".  The lead witness was Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health at NIH and chair of the IACC.  The second panel included representatives from local Autism advocacy organizations from Iowa, North Carolina and Mississippi as well as the President of the Community College Consortium on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities.  Issues that were brought up during the hearing included: vaccines and the number of vaccines given before age two and their relation to autism; importance of early intervention and evidence based interventions especially behavioral approaches; availability of interventions and the need for insurance coverage to pay for them; need for additional resources for services; need for insurance coverage; and need to focus on transitional youth who are becoming adults especially for post secondary options. The full list of panelists and their testimony as well as webcast of the hearing is available on the committee website.

Hate Crimes

AUCD signed on to a letter along with other organizations from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities regarding the passage of the Mathew Shephard Hate Crimes Act. The Senate accepted this legislation as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill.  Unfortunately, also included were harmful death penalty amendments and Attorney General guidelines.  The letter argues for the purpose and original intent of the law to act as a protective statute for populations at-risk for crimes of hate. The letter is available on the AUCD website.

Office of Personnel Management

Christine M. Griffin has been confirmed as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. Griffin was acting vice chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She has also worked as executive director of the Disability Law Center in Boston.