AUCD Legislative News In Brief

February 28, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  February 28, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 9
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Congressional Schedule
Congress returns from the Presidents Day recess today, with the House taking up a bill to allow continued short-term fiscal 2011 spending (see Budget & Appropriations).  The President's Cabinet officials will defend his FY 2012 budget request in the Senate on consecutive days, with Secretary Arne Duncan defending the Department of Education's budget at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.  The hearing can be viewed on the Budget Committee's

Budget & Appropriations
The House and Senate appear close to coming to agreement on another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating from March 4 to March 18.  According to a House Appropriations Committee press release, the CR cuts $4 billion: $1.24 billion from the termination of eight programs (none from HHS) and $2.7 billion from terminating "earmarks" in the FY 2010 spending bills, including those in HRSA, CDC, and SAMHSA.  A total of $1 billion is reportedly cut from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education.  However, the details of what programs are cut are still not available.  Senate Democrats would prefer a long-term CR at level funding; however, they do not have the 60 votes needed to pass such a plan.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday entitled "Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Intellectual Disabilities."  Bill Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, will testify along with several witnesses, including ADD Commissioner Sharon Lewis and Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner Lynnae Ruttledge.  The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern and will be webcast on the committee's website. 

Health Care Reform
The Department of HHS recently announced $4.3 billion in new funds authorized by the Affordable Care Act to help establish and expand community-based alternatives to institutional long-term care through the Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration and the Community First Choice option program.  Thirteen states will together receive more than $45 million in MFP grants to start the program in their states.  HHS also published a proposed rule Friday seeking to implement the Community First Choice Option and allow all states to access a potential $3.7 billion in increased federal funding to provide long-term services and supports through the program.  Starting in October 2011, the three-year program will allow states to receive a six percent increase in federal matching funds for providing qualifying services and supports to Medicaid eligible individuals in a community setting, in accordance with a person-centered plan.  HHS invites public comments on the rule, which are due by April 26, 2011.  For more information on the rules and which states will receive MFP funds, see the HHS Press Release.  For more information about these and similar programs in the Affordable Care Act, please read AUCD's summary on the ACA's long-term services and supports provisions.

HHS recently released a report describing opportunities for state flexibility within the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as the resources available to states under the health reform law.  The report finds that as of February 24, 2011, states have received, or can access, nearly $2.8 billion in ACA funding.  It notes that states will receive billions more in ACA funding in 2011 and subsequent years, through such initiatives as the recently-announced insurance Exchange grants, the additional funding from the $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund that will be released, and the higher Federal matching payments for Medicaid long-term care that will soon be available to states.  The report also highlights the flexibility and options already afforded to states under the health reform law, such as state decisions in enforcing the ACA's new consumer protections; the state's choice of participating in planning for the Exchanges; as well as the state's decision to operate a Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan.

The latest decision regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was issued in favor of the law by Judge Gladys Kessler of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.  In her 64-page opinion, Judge Kessler upheld the law on constitutional grounds.  The controversy continues, however, and the issue of the law's constitutionality will likely be decided by the Supreme Court as judges at the district level have decided the question both ways.  


For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website:

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