AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 2, 2009

Congressional Schedule

The House may begin debate on the health care reform bill unveiled last week (see below). The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the increasing health care costs facing small businesses on Tuesday.  The Senate may also take up two more annual appropriations bills, but not the L-HHS-ED bill that funds the AUCD network programs, which is still operating under a continuing resolution at FY 09 levels.

 Health Care Reform

With much fanfare, House Democratic leaders on Thursday unveiled its health care reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, HR 3962. The bill expands on slightly different versions reported by three different House committees with jurisdiction over health care.  It took almost three months to reconcile the differences between the bills.  The next step is for the full House to consider the bill, which is expected to begin later this week.  Meanwhile, Senate leaders are still working to merge the HELP and Finance Committee bills with the goal of bringing its version to the floor before Thanksgiving.

The final House bill retains many of the important private market reforms important to everyone, including people with disabilities, such as the elimination of discrimination based on health status and disability; prohibitions on pre-existing condition exclusions; and guaranteed issue and renewal requirements.


Long Term Services

AUCD is also very pleased to report that the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (Subtitle D, Sec. 2581) is also included in the reconciled House bill. The purpose of this title is to establish a national voluntary insurance program for purchasing community living assistance services and supports in order to provide individuals with functional limitations with tools that will allow them to maintain their personal and financial independence and live in the community.  This provision is almost identical to S. 697, introduced and championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.  The CLASS Act is also in the HELP Committee bill but not the Finance Committee bill.  AUCD is working with other disability and aging groups to counter strong opposition by the insurance industry.  Numerous alerts and personal notes have been shared with the AUCD network to provide talking points and action steps to help ensure that this provision remains in the final health reform bill.


The bad news is that the “Community First Choice Option” is not included in the House bill.  This provision, which is in the Senate Finance Committee bill, is similar to the Community Choice Act (S. 683/H.R. 1670), championed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).  The Community First Choice Option would provide an option, not a mandate, to states to provide individuals who are eligible for institutional care equal access to community-based services and supports.  AUCD helped sponsor two Hill days last month to urge Members of Congress to support both the CLASS Act and Community First Choice Option in the final health reform bill and will continue to push for its inclusion in a final bill.



In addition to these important reforms, AUCD is particularly pleased to see that the provision to provide national training initiatives on autism spectrum disorders (Sec. 2527) made it into the final House health care reform bill. This provision would provide grants to UCEDDs or a comparable interdisciplinary education, research, and service entity to provide interdisciplinary training, continuing education, technical assistance, and information for the purpose of improving services for children and adults with autism and to address their unmet needs.  This provision was championed by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and is similar to Sec. 11 of the Autism Treatment and Acceleration Act (H.R. 2413).  To ensure that this provision remains in a final bill, AUCD is working with Senate sponsors of ATAA to champion the provision in the Senate bill.


Rep. Doyle also sponsored an amendment which was retained that adds “behavioral health” to the list of required services that insurance companies must provide.  The intention is that behavioral health services will include positive behavioral health interventions for people with autism.  An identical amendment was introduced on the Senate side by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ). 


AUCD has signed on to a coalition letter to Congress urging that employer-based wellness programs not be exempted from the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). When GINA becomes effective, it will prevent health insurance providers and employers from using genetic information for underwriting purposes or request patients to undergo genetic testing. If employer-based wellness programs were exempted, a loophole would be created, weakening GINA’s protections and allowing employers to inquire about employees’ genetic information.

 Child Abuse and Neglect

Sen. Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Children and Families Subcommittee of the Senate HELP Committee, and Rep. Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, sent a letter to Director Orszag of the Office of Management and Budget urging for increased funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. The funding increases would help states strengthen their child protective systems, develop community-based prevention services, and support research initiatives.

 Surgeon General Confirmed

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that the Senate unanimously confirmed Dr. Regina M. Benjamin as the nation’s Surgeon General. Dr. Benjamin is the Founder and CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Past-Chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, and former Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

 Healthy People 2020 Public Comment Period

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services invites the public to comment on the draft set of objectives for Healthy People 2020. For three decades, Healthy People has provided a set of national 10-year health promotion and disease prevention objectives aimed at improving the health of all Americans. To view and comment on proposed draft objectives for Healthy People 2020, visit the comment website.