AUCD Legislative News In Brief

April 4, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  April 4, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 14
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FY 2011 Appropriations
With the current continuing resolution expiring on Friday, Congressional appropriators continue to negotiate fiscal 2011 spending levels for the remainder of the year.  Negotiators appear to be working from a tentative agreement to cut $33 billion in spending from levels used early this year, essentially a midpoint between what Democrats wanted - maintaining FY 2010 funding levels - and the Republican proposal to cut $61.5 billion.  Some conservative House members have indicated that cutting $33 billion would be unacceptable, and some have said they would consider it only if provisions were included to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and limit the Environmental Protection Agency.  Leaders of both parties agree that it is unlikely that another short-term continuing resolution will be passed, but finding common ground while avoiding a government shutdown will be difficult. 

FY 2012 Budget & Appropriations
House Republican leaders will unveil their much anticipated fiscal 2012 budget resolution this week.  The plan is expected to call for major changes, including new statutory limits to reduce mandatory and discretionary spending to 20.6 percent of the economy over ten years, with automatic spending cuts to occur if Congress does not meet the deadline.  It will also include deep cuts to discretionary programs and changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (see Medicaid below), but likely will not include major changes to Social Security or attempt to raise revenue.  While it is not expected to gain support in the Senate, the budget will provide a clear picture of the new Republican House majority's intent to overhaul federal spending.  The House Budget Committee may mark up the measure as early as Wednesday. 

The Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on the President's FY 2012 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave testimony on a wide range of topics.  Both Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) highlighted the National Institutes of Health in their opening statements, with Harkin calling NIH funding a "key priority" and Shelby commenting on NIH as "one of the most results-driven aspects of our federal budget."  More information, including an archived webcast of the hearing, opening statements of the Chair and Ranking Member, and Sec. Sebelius' testimony, are available on the Committee website. 

The new House budget resolution is expected to include plans to replace the current formula-based Medicaid program with a block grant system in which states receive a set amount of federal funding and have greater flexibility to design their own programs and determine eligibility.  Because federal funding is capped, block grants do not guarantee coverage for all eligible people, and states may be allowed to implement waiting lists and enrollment freezes.  AUCD and other disability advocacy groups oppose a block grant structure in Medicaid because it would likely result in fewer eligible people being covered and benefit cuts for those who do receive coverage.  For more information on how block grants compare to current Medicaid financing, see the
Kaiser Policy brief.

On Friday, President Obama signed a
Proclamation for World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), calling upon Americans to learn more about autism and what they can do to support individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.  AUCD also issued a press release in recognition of Autism Awareness Day.  The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Autism Task Force, including AUCD, held meetings with Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and House Energy and Commerce Committees to educate them about the Combating Autism Act and urge them to reauthorize it before portions of the law expire in September.  It is important for AUCD network members and other supporters follow up with letters and phone calls to all members of Congress about the CAA.  A sample letter can be found on AUCD's Action Center.

Health Care Reform
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday new proposed rules to help hospitals and doctors form a new type of health delivery system called accountable care organizations, or ACOs, which are one of the major efforts in the Affordable Care Act to help reduce rising health care costs.  The goal of ACOs is to help create a model to replace the current fee-for-service payment method, which increases costs by rewarding doctors and hospitals for doing more procedures and tests.  The ACO program will start in Medicare, but most health experts say it will quickly be adopted by private health insurers.  HHS officials estimate it will save Medicare between $500 million and $960 million in the beginning.  For more information, see HHS' fact sheet.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health held a markup on several pieces of legislation related to health reform Thursday, covering legislation that would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund, convert the funding for graduate medical education from direct appropriations to an authorization for appropriations and repeal mandatory funding provided to states to establish the law's health care exchanges.  Each of the five bills considered was reported favorably by the subcommittee, with votes falling along party lines.  The full committee will mark up the bills Tuesday. 

Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Education & Workforce Committee, plans to introduce legislation to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools this week.  The bill is expected to be similar, if not identical, to a bill that the House passed last year, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (H.R. 4247).  In the Senate, staff of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee report that Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) is also working on a bill to limit restraint and seclusion.  For more information about this issue and previously introduced bills, visit AUCD's Restraint & Seclusion policy page.

AUCD signed on to a letter from the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities supporting the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (S. 613, H.R. 1208).  The letter urges members of Congress to cosponsor the bills, which would reverse a 2006 Supreme Court decision (Arlington Central School District v. Murphy) holding that parents cannot be reimbursed for expert witness fees incurred as part of IDEA due process proceedings.  The text of the bills is available on AUCD's IDEA policy page.


 For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

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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