AUCD Legislative News In Brief

April 18, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  April 18, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 16
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Congressional Schedule
Congress is on recess for the next two weeks, returning May 2.  Recess is an excellent time to meet with your members of Congress and educate them about disability issues while they are in their home offices.  To learn more about issues that are active in Congress right now, visit AUCD's Public Policy page.  AUCD emailed a recess action alert that can be found in the Action Center. 

FY 2011 Appropriations
Congress passed and the President signed Friday legislation (H.R. 1473) to fund federal programs for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.  The final deal includes roughly $38 billion in cuts from previous spending levels.  DD Act programs were spared from direct cuts, but could be affected by a 0.2% across-the-board cut to most non-defense discretionary programs.  Federal agencies have 30 days to decide how they will apply that across-the-board cut to their programs.  AUCD will be following these details closely. The House and Senate will now focus on developing a budget for the 2012 fiscal year that begins on September 1. 

FY 2012 Budget
The House approved Friday the fiscal 2012 budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 34) introduced by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan on a largely party-line vote (235-193), with only four Republicans opposing the measure.  (See "Key Votes" on AUCD's action center to find out how your members voted.)  The resolution, which serves as a blueprint for annual program funding, proposes drastic spending cuts and a number of controversial policy changes, including funding Medicaid through block grants and changing Medicare into a voucher program in which beneficiaries would receive annual stipends to buy insurance in the private market.  Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) offered an alternative proposal which would put the federal budget in "primary balance" (balanced except for interest payments on the debt) by 2018 and freeze non-security discretionary spending for five years. His proposal was rejected largely along party lines.  The House also rejected three other alternatives proposed by the Republican Study Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  The Senate is working on its own spending blueprint, which is expected to be released soon after the two-week spring recess. 

Finally, President Obama addressed the nation Wednesday and unveiled his own framework for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  In his remarks, he emphasized the need to ensure protection for the most vulnerable Americans, including people with disabilities (see AUCD press statement).  He also asked Democrat and Republican leaders to designate members from their caucuses to participate in bipartisan, bicameral negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden beginning in early May.  The goal of these discussions is for lawmakers to agree on a legislative framework for comprehensive deficit reduction. 

Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced Friday the Autism Services and Workforce Acceleration Act (S. 850) (see AUCD support letter, press release text of the bill). Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) co-sponsored the bill (see joint press release). While this bill would not reauthorize the Combating Autism Act, it does compliment it by funding the development of services and supports for individuals on the spectrum. University Centers (UCEDDs) would be eligible for additional funding through a provision in S. 850 to promote interdisciplinary training and technical assistance in autism. It is possible that this bill will be combined with a bill to reauthorize the CAA as it moves forward in the legislative process. Senator Menendez (D-NJ) is expected to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act soon.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursday four initiatives intended to aid states in the creation of innovative practices for the provision of improved and more coordinated care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries while decreasing costs through implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  One initiative provides fifteen states (CA, CO, CT, MA, MI, MN, NY, NC, OK, OR, SC, TN, VT, WA and WI) up to $1million each in order to meet the needs of over 9 million dually eligible beneficiaries, or people that qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid programs, through improvements in access to care and lowering costs through elimination of service duplication.  The Federal Coordinated Health Care Office at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), established through ACA, will assist states in the implementation of strategies addressing the coordination of acute, primary, behavioral and long-term supports and services for dual-eligibles.

As part of a second initiative, CMS released proposed rules related to the regulations implementing Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers by providing States the option to combine the existing three targeted groups (currently, each target group must be addressed by a separate section) .  In addition, CMS proposed other changes to the HCBS waiver provisions to convey expectations regarding person-centered plans of care, provide characteristics of settings that are not home and community-based, clarify the timing of amendments and public input requirements when states propose modifications to HCBS waiver programs and service rates, and to describe the additional strategies available to CMS to ensure state compliance with the statutory provisions of section 1915(c) of the Act.

A third initiative provides money to states to develop and/or upgrade information technology enrollment systems to assist in the enrollment of individuals in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Finally, New Jersey received approval for a Section 1115 demonstration to expand health coverage to nearly 70,000 uninsured, low-income people through the Work First New Jersey program.

Health Care Reform
On Wednesday, the House approved by a vote of
236-183 legislation (H.R. 1217) to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act.  The Fund is mandatory spending that allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to supplement annual discretionary spending for public health activities.   The Senate is not expected to take up the bill, and a statement from the White House indicated that, if the bill were to reach the President's desk, he would be advised to veto it.  For more information about the Fund and funding distributed to states this year, see the Trust for America's Health Report, "The New Prevention Fund: An Investment in the Future Health of America." 


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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