AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 8, 2009

Health Care Reform

Today both the House and the Senate return from August recess.  Attention remains on health care reform as the House committees work to produce a single bill for a vote while the Senate Finance Committee continues to work on a bipartisan bill that will be merged with the HELP Committee passed bill.  AUCD has posted several fact sheets analyzing how the congressional proposals would impact people with disabilities.  AUCD also has an action alert on health and long term care with a sample letter. We hope that network members will take a moment to write, call, or meet with Members of Congress to help educate them about how health care reform will help people with disabilities and the network.

In the Senate, The so-called "Gang of Six" senators - including Max Baucus (D-MT), Finance ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.),and Olympia Snowe, (R-ME) - held a 90-minute teleconference last Friday. Afterward, Baucus announced the group would meet today (Tuesday) to "take stock of where we are and determine how to best pass real reform."  The group will discuss new proposals in the Finance Committee's $900 billion health care bill that Sen. Baucus hopes to introduce soon.  The Baucus plan includes a new fee on insurance companies for more expensive plans, expands access to Medicaid up to 133 percent of poverty, and seeks to increase competition for private insurers in the form of a cooperative rather than a so-called public option, according to Hill news reports. It would also place a limit on out-of-pocket expenses for consumers, and attempt to shift the basis for medical provider payment policies to quality rather than quantity.

Meanwhile, President Obama is preparing for a speech to a joint session of Congress scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) during which he is expected to reveal more details about his expectations for health care reform.  Until now, he has only spoken of broad principles for health reform; however, in the face of growing doubts and misunderstanding by the public and the media over the summer recess, the President hopes to save health care reform by becoming more directly involved.


The House of Representatives passed its version of the Labor, HHS Appropriations bill on July 24.  In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Labor, HHS appropriations bill the following week on July 30, which is expected to be considered by the full Senate in early September.  A conference committee will then have to work out the differences between the two bills.  The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

AUCD signed onto a Coalition for Health Funding letter to appropriators urging them to provide the highest possible funding level for health programs during House-Senate conference deliberations on the FY 2010 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3293).  The letter states that the importance of discretionary health programs and activities has never been more important as it is now with unemployment continuing to rise, the numbers of uninsured Americans increasing and the overall health of the U.S. population declining. Complicating this confluence of challenging factors is the return this fall of swine flu.  Discretionary health programs are the only health safety net for millions who have lost their jobs, or their health insurance, and the first line of defense for everyone in protecting against H1N1 influenza.  They also fund the nation's primary investment in biomedical, behavioral and health services research as well as other activities directed at preventing and mitigating disease and developmental and other disabilities.  For more information on funding levels provided by the House and Senate bills, see AUCD's Aug. 10 Special Report on FY 2010 Funding.

Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee

Senator Chris Dodd (D-(CT) may have to decide soon on whether to give up his chairmanship of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to assume the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  Senator Kennedy's passing has vacated his post as Chairman.  According to Senate rules, for Dodd to assume the HELP chairmanship he would have to give up his chairmanship of the Banking Committee or be permitted by the Senate leadership to serve both posts until health reform is completed.  Should Dodd decide to give up his leadership post on the HELP committee, the next two Senators with seniority on the HELP Committee are Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).  The Senate HELP Committee oversees many legislative jurisdictions that affect individuals with disabilities.

President Obama's Education Speech

President Obama spoke to students across the nation today as many began the new school year amid controversy with several conservative organizations and individuals accusing him of trying to pitch his arguments too aggressively in a local-education setting. The President's speech focuses on student's dedication to their education as well as stories of students overcoming the odds and becoming successful in the face of challenges.  The full text of the speech can be found on the White House website.

AUCD Policy Fellowship

AUCD is seeking applicants for the policy fellowship, a yearlong opportunity for LEND trainees or mid-level career network members to contribute to the field of disability policy at the national level.  Activities include but are not limited to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  A full description and application instructions are located on the AUCD website.  Applications are currently being accepted.  The position will be open until filled.