AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 20, 2010

Health Reform
September 23 will mark the six month anniversary of the passage of the
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).  New and important consumer protections will take effect beginning this week, such as the elimination of lifetime caps on coverage, the first phase of the prohibition on annual insurance limits, and mandatory coverage of preventive services by new private insurance plans.  Additionally, children with special health care needs will be able to get insurance that will cover the necessary treatment of their illnesses.  A new fact sheet by Community Catalyst entitled, Six Months In: Who Is the Affordable Care Act Helping in Your Community? summarizes the consumer protections that will take effect this week. 

For more information and resources on the Affordable Care Act, please visit AUCD's Health Reform Hub.

The Affordable Care Act authorizes HHS to establish a national strategy and to identify priorities that will improve the delivery of health care services, patient health outcomes, and population health in the United States.  HHS welcomes comments and suggestions on all aspects of the proposed structure, principles, conceptualization, and specific details of the strategy.  To learn more about the strategy and to provide comments, click here.

The Senate defeated an amendment sponsored by Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) repealing a tax provision in the new health care law.  A compromise version offered by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) also failed. Senator Johann's amendment would have made up for the large revenue loss from repealing a tax reporting provision in a small business tax bill by eliminating critical funding for prevention and public health funding and by seriously weakening a key element of health reform, the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.  Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are very concerned that this is just the first of many attempts to use the prevention trust fund to pay for other federal programs and for opponents to attempt to weaken the Affordable Care Act.

Congress must pass a continuing resolution by September 30 in order to keep federal agencies funded in the new 2011 fiscal year beginning October 1.  Although the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved nine of the twelve annual funding measures, none have been signed into law.  The House has only moved two bills in committee and no bills have passed the full House. The Senate Committee and the House Subcommittee on Appropriations include increases for AUCD network programs.  However, the outcome for any increased funding will depend upon negotiations later this year between the House and Senate setting final overall funding levels for FY 2011.  Those decisions are expected to be made after the elections when Congress plans to return for a lame duck session in mid- November.  There is a lot of political pressure to reduce overall federal discretionary spending. 

Rosa's Law & the Elizabeth A. Connelly Act
AUCD has learned that the House of Representatives will vote this week on
Rosa's Law (2781), using the Senate-passed bill, under suspension of the rules. Suspension of the rules is a procedure that is used to quickly pass a non-controversial bill in the House. Once passed, Rosa's Law will replace the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" with "intellectual disability" and "an individual with an intellectual disability" in specific federal laws including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  The bill does not expand or diminish services, rights or educational opportunities.  It simply makes federal language consistent with that used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the President's Committee on Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. 

Direct Support Professionals
Last week, Department of Labor Secretary Solis and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sebelius commented on National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week (S. Res. 558 Designation), which recognizes the dedication and vital role of direct support professionals in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities.  The
resolution states that there are currently more than three million professionals employed in direct care occupations and their demand is projected to increase by 34 percent over the next decade.  The statement goes on to say that many provisions of the Affordable Care Act will benefit direct support professionals by providing numerous opportunities to access more affordable health care and enhance their training and development.

Census Data
The Census Bureau reported Thursday that in 2009, 16 .7 percent of the population was uninsured, which was up from 15.4 percent in 2008.  In addition, employer-based health coverage dropped by about three percent in 2009, while Medicaid coverage rose from 14.1 to 15.7 percent.  The new Census numbers are based on the 2010 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.  Robert Greenstein, Executive Director from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explains more in his statement regarding Census 2009 poverty and health insurance data.

Health Care Funding
announced last week that it will award $14.2 Million to several centers of excellence at universities and medical schools to support patient-centered outcomes research.  The HHS Office of Minority Health also awarded a similar contract to Westat, Inc. of Rockville, MD.  The funding is part of the investments made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and is intended to be used to develop, implement, and test strategies to increase the adoption and dissemination of interventions based on patient-centered outcomes research among racial and ethnic minority populations.

Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations
In July, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department of Justice's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  Final rules will take effect March 15, 2011. Compliance with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is permitted as of September 15, 2010, but not required until March 15, 2012. The ADA requires the Department of Justice to publish ADA design standards that are consistent with the guidelines published by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). Fact sheets are available online identifying the major changes in the rules:

·         Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice's Regulation Implementing Title II of the ADA

·         Adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
The Obama Administration is nearing the end of its inter-agency submittal and transmittal of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD ) to the Senate for passage toward  ratification. The CRPD is a United Nations treaty that creates principles for revolutionary changes for people with disabilities all around the world in human and civil rights.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) International Task Force is planning a strategy for educating members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  In a recent meeting with Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), members of CCD and the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), Sen. Kerry expressed support for CRPD but said that the Committee will most likely address several other pending treaties before turning its attention to CRPD.  AUCD signed onto a letter developed by USICD urging the Committee to support the ratification of CRPD.