AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 4, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate adjourned over the holidays and will reconvene at noon on Jan. 5 for a pro forma session. No legislative business is expected in the House until Jan. 12. The Senate will recess until Wednesday, Jan. 20.

Health Care Reform
In a rare Christmas Eve vote, Senate Democrats pushed health care legislation toward Senate passage, ending a year-end Republican filibuster against President Barack Obama's call to remake the nation's health care system. The 60-39 vote marked the third time Democrats posted a supermajority needed to advance the legislation.

 The House and Senate appear increasingly likely to bypass a formal conference on the health care bills and instead work out an informal agreement as a way to bypass potential Republican delay tactics in the Senate. Top Democrats will likely have the House incorporate any agreement into the Senate's version of the bill via an amendment, and then send the legislation back to the Senate to be cleared. The House has not yet agreed to an informal conference process, but Senate Democrats believe that unified Republican opposition in the Senate makes it imperative that the House accept the Senate bill more or less whole.

 Abortion continues to be a thorny issue facing House and Senate negotiators. The Senate's abortion language has divided House Democrats, creating the possibility for defections on both sides of the issue if it remains in the final version of the legislation. On the anti-abortion side, the most likely potential defectors are the 41 Democrats who voted for Bart Stupak's (D-MI) amendment and for the final House version of the bill. On the other side, Diane DeGette (D-CO) said 42 House Democrats signed a letter pledging to vote against any health care bill that she says "goes beyond current law." Other issues for negotiation include financing, effective dates and the Insurance Exchanges.

Healthy People 2020 Comments
AUCD submitted comments on the draft set of objectives for Healthy People 2020, which can be found on the Public Comment Website: 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. AUCD's comments were developed by a work group of volunteers from its network. The public comment period ended December 31.

HIPAA and Employer Wellness Programs
AUCD and a number of national health organizations, including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, have grown increasingly concerned about provisions in the Senate health reform bill (H.R. 3590) that would codify regulatory changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Many organizations fear that if the HIPAA regulations are codified, a loophole will result, allowing group health plans to discriminate against members based on health status. Such a loophole would endanger the protections provided by existing law, such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. AUCD, along with well over 100 organizations, signed on to a letter expressing concern with these provisions. See our December 7 In Brief and the FAQ for more background.

 Electronic Health Records
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have issued two regulations to improve quality, efficiency and safety through meaningful use of certified electronic health record (HER) technology. A
proposed rule issued by CMS outlines proposed provisions governing the HER incentive programs, including defining the concept of "meaningful use" of HER technology. An interim final regulation issued by ONC sets initial standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for EHR technology. Both regulations are open to public comment. For more information, see the news release.

Ticket to Work website launched
In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, the Social Security Administration and CESSI (the Program Manager for Recruitment and Outreach for the Ticket to Work program) announced the launch of a new website for people with disabilities receiving Social Security benefits: The website offers short, informative videos and personal stories of those who have used the program. Visitors can also find helpful local resources on the site.

Ticket to Work is a voluntary employment program for people with disabilities administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The program offers people receiving Social Security disability benefits age 18 through 64 expanded opportunities to obtain the services and supports they need to work and to achieve their employment goals.

Restraint and Seclusion
Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), and Todd Platts (R-PA) have issued a Dear Colleague letter requesting cosponsors for the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, HR 4247. More cosponsors are needed for this bill and its companion in the Senate, S. 2860. Visit our action center to encourage your Congressional members to cosponsor the legislation.