AUCD Legislative News In Brief

April 5, 2010

Congressional Schedule
Congress is on spring recess this week. 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 Reform/Development of High Risk Pools
One of the first big changes as a result of the March 23 signing of the health care reform bill (HR 3590 now Public Law 111-148) will be the development of high risk pools. Section 1101 of the new law establishes a "temporary high risk health insurance pool program" to provide health insurance coverage to currently uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions. The law directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to carry out the program directly or through contracts with states or private, non-profit entities. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today issued
a letter to governors and independent insurance commissioners asking each state to express their interest in participating in the program.  The law provides $5 billion to support the new program.  The letter outlines options for how states may participate.

Health Care Reform/Children's Health
After last week's passage of health reform, insurers contended that the new law does not require them to cover children with pre-existing conditions until 2014, but rather only to cover treatments for sick children who are already customers. In response, Sec. Sebelius sent a letter to the president of the insurance industry's lobby, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), pledging to issue new regulations to clarify that insurers must give children who may be ill access to their parents' plans starting in September. AHIP wrote a
response pledging to fully comply with those regulations. Although insurers said covering these children may drive up costs, proponents of the policy contend that the numbers of uninsured children with pre-existing conditions that would exclude them from private coverage amount to only 1-2% of uninsured children nation-wide.

The co-chairs of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week to discuss the Administration's priorities for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, formerly known as No Child Left Behind). The group expressed concern with the idea of using a child's Individual Education Plan (IEP) for accountability purposes. Duncan requested CCD's help on the issue and asked the Consortium to hold the Department accountable. The co-chairs also met with Democratic staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and held a briefing for House Education and Labor Committee staff. Both chambers plan to continue holding hearings on ESEA following their two-week spring recess.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of its $4 billion Race to the Top competition Thursday. Of the 40 states that submitted applications, only two states were awarded funding: Delaware and Tennessee. The Race to the Top program's key objectives include turning around low-performing schools, improving teacher evaluation systems and expanding successful charter schools. Many Governors were disappointed and expressed concern about needing to submit new applications for the next round of funding by June 1. Visit the Department's website for more information.

Community Living
As part of the Department of
HHS Community Living Initiative, the Office on Disability announced last week that federal HHS representatives will hold stakeholder dialogues on community living to identify and promote ways to improve access to housing, community supports, and independent living arrangements for individuals with disabilities and older adults. Upcoming dialogues will be held in Raleigh, NC on April 6, Fairfax County, VA on April 19, and Boston, MA on May 27.  HHS established the Community Living Initiative in response to the 10th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. and President Obama's launch of the "Year of Community Living" in 2009.  AUCD emailed the locations of these events to the state UCEDD offices.

Disability Policy Seminar - only 1 week away!
Separate the myths from the facts about Health Care Reform and learn what it means to you!

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 - check out the
Program at a Glance to see them all. The first day of the seminar will be devoted entirely to health care reform. You will learn about the impact of reform at the state level and have the opportunity to speak with disability advocates from across the country about how you can be involved in its successful implementation. Participants should be making appointments ahead of time for Hill visits all day on April 14.  Everything you need to register can be found 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.