AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 24, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The House is expected to consider the "tax extenders" bill this week, which includes an extension of the enhanced FMAP (see Medicaid below).  Both the House and Senate will take up bills to authorize programs under the Department of Defense.  The bulk of the Senate time will be devoted to a supplemental appropriations bill (HR 4899) with a goal of passing the bill by the end of the week.  House leaders are still unsure if they will be able to achieve the same goal on their version.  The supplemental spending bill's main purpose is to provide additional funding for the war and for disaster relief; however, it also may become the vehicle for education aid to states and a deeming resolution to provide an overall funding level for appropriations committees.

The House of Representatives could vote as early as Tuesday on a bill containing a six-month extension of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending (known as the FMAP).  The American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes and Preventing Outsourcing Act (H.R. 4213) would also extend dozens of expired tax cuts through 2010, prevent a cut in doctors' Medicare reimbursement rates, and continue expanded unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the unemployed.  The ARRA increase expires on December 31, 2010.  Without the six-month extension, states are likely to have to make significant cuts to their Medicaid programs for the 2011 fiscal year.  Finding the votes to pass the measure may be difficult, as fiscally conservative members from both parties are concerned about the bill's costs - the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would increase the deficit by $133.7 billion over ten years.

Modernization of Terminology: Rosa's Law
The Senate HELP Committee will mark up pending legislation Wednesday to replace the term "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" in specific federal health, education, and labor laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  The bipartisan bill (S. 2781), called Rosa's Law, is modeled after a Maryland law by the same name.  The bill, introduced last November by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities.  The Senate bill now has 42 bipartisan cosponsors. A House companion bill (H.R. 4544) was introduced by Rep. Michael McMahon (D. NY) on January 27.  The House bill has 30 bipartisan cosponsors.  See AUCD's Action Center for a list of co-sponsors and sample letter to write to Members of Congress.

Fiscal Commission
The President's 18-member Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning. The group is charged with identifying policies to improve the nation's fiscal situation and achieve long-term fiscal sustainability.  Its report is due on December 1, with Congress expected to consider its proposals following the November Congressional elections.  For more information and to view the meetings live, visit

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), focusing on early childhood education. Last week's hearing focused on programs that support student health, physical education and well-being. Special Olympics chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver testified.

ADA and the Internet
The Senate Communications, Technology, and the Internet subcommittee will hold a
hearing Wednesday entitled "Innovation and Inclusion: The Americans with Disabilities Act at 20", focusing on legislation that would improve internet and technology access for individuals who are deaf and blind.

Health Provider Training and Diabetes
Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) and Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) introduced the Gestational Diabetes Act of 2010 (GEDI-H.R. 5354) Thursday in an effort to lower the incidence of gestational diabetes and prevent affected women and their children from later developing Type 2 diabetes. The legislation would create a Research Advisory Committee, headed by the Centers for Disease Control, consisting of representatives from federal agencies and health organizations.  It will develop research projects to expand and enhance monitoring by standardizing procedures for more accurate data collection and diagnosis.  The legislation also provides for methods to track affected mothers to better develop prevention methods, and provides grants to organizations and agencies to expand community-based activities, help State-based health programs with prevention, and train health providers to treat the condition.

National Health Care Workforce Commission
The new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, authorizes the establishment of a 15-member National Health Care Workforce Commission to serve as a national resource for Congress, the President and the States, evaluate education and training activities, identify barriers to improved coordination among federal and state agencies, and encourage innovations to address population needs.  The Comptroller General will appoint members, which must include health care workforce and health professionals, representatives of consumers, and representatives of institutions of higher education.  Priorities of the Commission will include allied health and mental and behavioral healthcare workforce capacity. The May 7 Federal Register (Vol. 75, No 88) contained a notice for submission of nominations and resumes, due by June 30.

Health Care
AUCD, along with over 50 consumer, worker, and patient-centered organizations, sent a letter to Nancy Ann DeParle, the Director of the Office of Health Reform, urging her to work with the Office of Management and Budget to make the necessary funds available to the Department of Labor (DOL) to implement the survey of employer-sponsored coverage mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, PL 111-148).  Under Section 1302 of PPACA, the Secretary of Labor is charged with conducting a survey of employer-sponsored coverage to determine the benefits typically covered by employers and provide a report to the Secretary. The information collected from such a survey could have a profound impact on the nature and extent of the initial essential health insurance benefit package and provide the crucial evidence to defend the difficult decisions that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will need to make. Copies of the letter were also sent to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The Office on Disability at the Department of Health and Human Services held a web chat Thursday to discuss how the new health care reform law will affect people with disabilities and their families.  Henry Claypool, the Director of the Office on Disability, and Jeff Crowley, Senior Advisor to President Obama on disability, participated in the web chat.