AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 23, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  May 23, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 21
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FY 2011 Appropriations
The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education released their congressionally mandated operating plans which finalize program funding levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.  The numbers are based on the continuing resolution (CR) that was finally passed and signed into law (
P.L. 112-10) on April 15, 2011.  In total, the CR cuts $40 billion below the previous fiscal year levels.  While AUCD's core programs were spared deep cuts or elimination, many other health and human services programs were not.  Also, the CR required a 0.2 percent across-the-board rescission in non-defense discretionary programs that are reflected in the final budgets.  DD Act programs were among those subject to this 0.2 percent cut.  AUCD sent an email on Thursday with more specific information about network funding levels.  For details about other programs, see the complete Department of HHS Operating Budget table and the full Education budget table posted on the Department website.

FY 2012 Budget & Appropriations
Bipartisan talks of the "Gang of Six" in the Senate have reportedly stalled after Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) decided to take a break from the negotiations.  The group has been trying to develop a bipartisan budget proposal that would contain long-term approaches to deficit reduction, but has been unable to reach agreement over changes to entitlement programs.  The attention now turns to another group of bipartisan lawmakers convening with Vice President Joe Biden with hopes of developing a deficit reduction plan on which both parties can agree.  Congress and the White House are under a great deal of pressure to find agreement and move forward with a plan that includes raising the nation's debt limit before early August, when the nation is expected to default on its debts unless the limit is raised.  

Health Care Reform
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final regulation implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act that allow for government review of premium hikes by private insurance providers and provide clear information to consumers about those increases.  Starting September 1, 2011, the rule requires premium increases of 10 percent or more to be reviewed by state or federal officials for most individual and small group health insurance plans.  States will have primary responsibility in reviewing rate increases, but HHS will serve as a backup.  The rule comes as health insurance companies have reported some of their highest profits in years, according to the
HHS press release.  The rule is designed to protect consumers from unreasonable premium increases and increase transparency in the marketplace.  For more information, see the HHS fact sheet.  

The Alliance for Health Reform held a briefing Friday entitled "Keeping Coverage Continuous: Smoothing the Path between Medicaid and the Exchange."  Speakers addressed strategies for managing the problem of "churning", when people cycle in and out of public programs as their incomes vary, so that coverage and care are not interrupted.  In order to achieve the Affordable Care Act's goal of expanding coverage, state exchanges must be easy-to-navigate and give consumers access to all available coverage options, whether Medicaid or private health plans offered by qualified providers.  For more information, see the following reports: Medicaid's Role in the Health Benefits Exchange: A Roadmap for States; Designing an Exchange: A Toolkit for State Policymakers. 

The House Education and Workforce committee will mark up a bill (
HR 1891) Wednesday that would eliminate 43 federal education programs, designating them ineffective or unnecessary.  A number of the programs marked for elimination did not receive funding in fiscal year 2011 (see FY 2011 Appropriations above), were slated for consolidation or elimination in the President's FY 2012 budget request, or were never funded. 

Lifespan Respite
Thirteen House members, led by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), sent a letter Friday to Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Chairman of the House Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, requesting $50 million for Lifespan Respite in FY 2012.  To contact your members of Congress about funding for Lifespan Respite, please see the National Respite Coalition Action Alert.

The House Energy and Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee recently approved draft legislation that would loosen and delay lead standards for children's toys.  The measure would delay by one year - until August 2012 - implementation of a requirement that lead be at most .01 percent of the weight of a children's product.  The bill would also narrow the definition of covered products to those that a child could chew and that are intended for children age 6 or younger, but gives the Consumer Product Safety Commission the authority to apply the standards to other products if it determines they present "an unreasonable risk to children's health."  The bill comes as a response to perceived flaws in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA , PL 110-314), which tightened standards for lead in children's products after high-profile toy recalls.

White House Disability Call
The White House is hosting monthly calls to update the public on various disability issues.  The next call will be held Thursday (May 26) at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, and will feature Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education Russlynn Ali, and Patricia Shiu, Director of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor.  The call will also include updates on civil rights, health care and fiscal/budget issues.  Join the call by dialing toll-free (800) 230-1085 and tell the operator you want to join the "White House Disability Call".  For live captioning, at the start of the call, please login by clicking on the following link:  

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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