AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 30, 2009


Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate return from Thanksgiving recess today (Senate) and tomorrow (House). Health care could dominate the Senate over the next three weeks as Senate Democratic leaders try to meet their goal of passing a bill by Christmas. The House does not return until Tuesday, and then only for suspension bills, although House Majority Leader Hoyer has listed for action this week legislation to deal with the estate tax.  Finalizing the FY 2010 annual appropriations bills will also dominate House and Senate floor time.

Health Care
Senators are scheduled to resume debate this afternoon on health care.  No votes are scheduled today, although Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell will be allowed to offer the first amendments to the substitute that Reid released a week ago. Currently the bill includes the following provisions which are of major importance to people with disabilities:

  • Major insurance market reforms including elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime caps;
  • Coverage of rehabilitation and habilitation services and devices in the essential benefits package for the new insurance Exchange;
  • An expansion of Medicaid eligibility up to 133% of the federal poverty level;
  • The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act which will establish a new, nation-wide long-term services insurance program that will help individuals and their families meet their needs without needing to be impoverished;
  • The Community First Choice (CFC) Medicaid option which will make comprehensive community-based services available to Medicaid beneficiaries in states that choose the option (it would begin on Oct 1, 2010 with no sunset date); and
  • A requirement for the development of standards for accessible diagnostic and other medical equipment.

For a comprehensive side-by-side of the bills, see the interactive comparisons on the Kaiser Family Foundation website:

Long-Term Services and Supports
The Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Committees of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) will hold a Capitol Hill briefing today to education congressional staff about the long-term services and supports priorities of older adults and persons with disabilities in health care reform legislation. Panelists will address key issues, including the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program, the Community First Choice Option and Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration, Medicaid Home and Community Balanced Incentives and Spousal Protections, and other LTSS-related provisions in reform legislation.  Marty Ford, Chair of the CCD LTSS Task Force will represent disability community at the briefing.  The CLASS Act is in the House-passed health reform bill as well as the Senate bill released last week.  However, it is not assured to make it through the amendment process in the Senate.  The disability and aging communities continue to work together to urge Senate leaders to retain the CLASS Act and other LTSS provisions in any final health reform bill.

The House passed legislation Wednesday that would permanently reform the Medicare physician payment system. The Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act (H.R. 3961), passed by a vote of 243-183, repeals a 21 percent fee reduction scheduled for January 2010 and replaces the physician payment formula with a system that ends the threat of fee cuts. The reforms help ensure that beneficiaries, mainly seniors and individuals with disabilities, will maintain the access to care that they enjoy today.

AUCD staff participated in a meeting with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff, along with other CCD Employment Task Force members, to provide preliminary recommendations regarding the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which includes Title IV, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.  Staff from HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Minority Member Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Employment Subcommittee Chairwoman, Patty Murray (D-WA) participated and asked specific questions about what is working and not working in the system regarding employing people with disabilities.  Staff are interested in data and research to back up recommendations.  AUCD's principles for the reauthorization of WIA, along with principles and recommendations by the CCD, are posted on the policy website.

AUCD has signed on to a CCD letter to Senators Casey (D-PA), Hatch (R-UT) and Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Crenshaw (R-FL) and Meek, thanking them for introducing the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 493/H. 1205) and to urging them to hold a hearing on the bill.  The ABLE Act would enable families to establish a savings account for specified education, medical and community-based services, including housing, transportation, employment training, and supports for their children without disqualifying those children from receipt of funds from entitlement programs. This bill would allow individuals with disabilities to have access to the same type of savings instruments that all other Americans utilize through the use of 401K, IRA, and College Savings Accounts. H.R. 1205 currently has 137 cosponsors; the Senate companion bill (S. 493) has 11 cosponsors. AUCD encourages its members to request that their Congressional members cosponsor the ABLE Act. Visit our action center to easily draft your letter.

AUCD has signed on to a
letter to Secretaries Geithner (Treasury), Sebelius (Health and Human Services) and Solis (Labor), expressing support for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the interim final rule implementing provisions of the law that will take effect on December 7. In response to calls for the agencies to delay when the regulations take effect or to exempt employer-based wellness programs, the letter opposes all proposals to weaken the Rule or stop its prompt implementation. Implementation of the law is essential to prevent employers from inquiring about employees' private genetic information and penalizing those who choose to keep the information private.