AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 9, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  May 9, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 19
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FY 2012 Budget & Appropriations
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) will move forward with his fiscal 2012 budget blueprint as early as this week.  Although details have not been released, Conrad says his plan would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years and would not propose changes to Social Security.  He plans to move forward with his committee's work whether or not a bipartisan group of senators known as the Gang of Six (of which Conrad is a member) has finished its work developing a deficit reduction proposal based on the recommendations of the President's fiscal commission.  The Senate Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee will also hold a hearing this week on proposed FY 2012 funding for programs under its jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to release its budget allocations this week. The so-called 302(b)s set the top-line spending level for each of the 12 annual appropriations bills.  The recently-adopted House budget resolution, which serves as a blueprint for allocations, set discretionary funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee at only $1.019 trillion - consistent with fiscal year 2006 levels. 

The White House will be actively involved in the budget debate leading up to votes to raise the federal debt limit, with Vice President Joe Biden convening the second meeting of another group of bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday.  That group hopes to develop its own deficit reduction plan by June.

Health Care Reform
The House of Representatives passed HR 1213, a bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) to repeal mandatory funding to states to establish American Health Benefit Exchanges.  Five Democrats joined Republicans in a nearly party-line vote of 238-183.  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the bill would be "dead on arrival" in his committee.  Additionally, the Obama Administration has promised to veto such a measure if it should pass in Congress.  AUCD signed on to a letter opposing this bill, as the creation of state-based exchanges is a central element of the health law's provisions to make affordable, high-quality health insurance coverage available to consumers.

Legislation aimed at repealing provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) relating to Medicaid eligibility was introduced in both the House and Senate on Tuesday.  The bills (S. 868, HR 1683) would repeal the law's "maintenance of effort" requirement that states maintain current Medicaid eligibility standards for adults until 2014 and for children until 2019.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates such reforms would save the federal government $2.8 billion in the first five years; however, the savings would be achieved by allowing states to cut enrollment and add up to 300,000 people to the growing number of uninsured.  Additionally, such reforms would undermine ACA's goal of expanding Medicaid eligibility, which, in addition to the law's other reforms, is estimated to help 32 million uninsured Americans find affordable coverage.  AUCD signed onto a letter developed by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities opposing these bills.

Proposals to cap Medicaid spending or fund the program through block grants are still on the table in ongoing budget discussions.  Such reforms would force states to limit eligibility and enrollment in the program, and reduce access to home and community-based long-term care.  In April, governors of 17 states sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing block-grant proposals, arguing that they would shift costs to states and severely undercut their ability to provide health care to their residents and adequately pay providers.  The Friday Morning Collaborative, a coalition of national aging and disability organizations, recently held a webinar on the "Implications of Medicaid Block Grants and Spending Caps for Seniors and People with Disabilities," aimed at informing the network and other advocates on the recent budget proposals.  The archived recording and PowerPoint are now available.

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will hold a
hearing Wednesday entitled "Removing Inefficiencies in the Nation's Job Training Programs."  According to the committee's announcement, the hearing will focus on eliminating and consolidating job training programs in order to reduce federal spending.

Last week, the full House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), held a hearing on the policies and priorities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius served as the hearing witness, offering testimony and answering members' questions about HHS programs within the committee's jurisdiction, as well as the administration's implementation of the health care law.  Chairman Kline's full remarks, witness testimony, and an archived webcast are available on the committee website at the link above.

Social Security
In light of recent proposals to reform Social Security, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities is sponsoring a webinar entitled "Social Security 101" on May 19.  The webinar will explain the basics of the Social Security programs, including information on their current design, how they benefit people with disabilities and the options for reforming Social Security to ensure its long-term solvency.  Reserve your Webinar seat now at:


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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