AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 29, 2010

Congressional Schedule
Congress is on spring recess for the next two weeks. Recess is an ideal time for constituents to visit their members in their home offices to discuss issues important to people with disabilities. Please visit AUCD's
Action Center or AUCD's Legislative Priorities for discussion topics.

Health Care Reform
AUCD is celebrating final passage of comprehensive and meaningful health reform legislation last week! After the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Sunday, March 21, the bill was sent to the President and signed into law on Tuesday. The accompanying "corrections" bill was also passed by the House on the 21st and then sent to the Senate for consideration through the budget reconciliation process. On Tuesday, the Senate began the allowed 20 hours of debate on numerous amendments and points of order raised by opponents. Only two points of order survived the process, resulting in the removal of two minor provisions dealing with Pell grants. The amended corrections bill passed the Senate by a vote of 56 to 43 early Thursday, and then passed the House by a vote of 220 to 207 that evening.

The final health reform package contains a number of provisions important to people with disabilities, including:

·         Major insurance market reforms such as the elimination of discrimination based on health status, a prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions, guaranteed issue and renewal requirements and the elimination of annual and lifetime caps;

·         Creation of  a high-risk pool to provide immediate assistance to those currently uninsured with pre-existing conditions;

·         The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a new voluntary, national long-term services insurance program to help adults with severe functional impairments to remain independent, employed and part of their communities;

·         The Community First Choice Option to provide Medicaid coverage of community-based attendant services and supports to people otherwise eligible for Medicaid institutional services

·         Significant investments in Medicaid to dramatically expand eligibility and provide increased matching rates to help states provide this new coverage;

·         An extension of the exceptions process to the Medicare therapy caps on physical, occupational and speech language therapies

It is very important to thank those Members who bravely fought and voted for this landmark legislation. Please feel free to use AUCD's Action Center to thank them (a sample editable letter is provided). Links to summaries and text of the bill are on AUCD's health policy website, including a detailed summary of provisions that impact AUCD network programs and an implementation timeline developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  See also a summary of the wellness, prevention and public health workforce provisions in the Senate bill.  The upcoming Policy Seminar will also provide participants with details about the new law and steps to implementation.

Obama Administration Appointments
President Obama will soon name Dr. Donald M. Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician, is President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass. In 1998, he was a member of an advisory commission appointed by President Clinton that recommended a patient's bill of rights and steps to reduce medical mistakes. From 1996 to 1999, Dr. Berwick was the first independent member of the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association.  In his new post, Dr. Berwick will be responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid and developing regulations for the new health reform law.

The President also announced the appointments of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nominees, Chai R. Feldblum, a nationally recognized expert on the ADA, to be a Commissioner; Jacqueline A. Berrien, Nominee for Chair of the EEOC; Victoria A. Lipnic, Nominee for Commissioner; and P. David Lopez, Nominee for General Counsel. The Senate must still confirm these nominations.

AUCD wrote a letter of support for Ari Ne'eman, President Obama's nomination to the National Council on Disability, after we learned that a Senator had placed a "hold" on his nomination.  Mr. Ne'eman is the President and founder of Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a member of the CCD Autism Task Force.

Disability Policy Seminar
Learn what comes next in health reform implementation!
The 2010 Disability Policy Seminar is only 2 weeks away! We have nearly 500 registrants from 47 states and the District of Columbia.  The Seminar takes place in Washington, DC on April 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Washington's top policy experts will discuss all the hot topics, including budget and appropriations, ESEA reauthorization, employment, transition to post-secondary education, and Medicaid. The first day of the seminar will be devoted entirely to health care reform, with staff updates and two plenary sessions on the topic, including an interactive session with seminar attendees. Participants should be making appointments ahead of time for Hill visits all day on April 14.  Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on AUCD's Events website.  The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee will meet in person during the Seminar on Monday, April 12.  AUCD will also host a special reception for Trainees on Monday night.