AUCD Legislative News In Brief

February 11, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  February 11, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 6
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Congressional Schedule

Both the House and Senate are in session this week. Congress will be on recess next week.

State of the Union

President Obama will deliver the State of the Union (SOU) address on Tuesday, February 5 at 9pm ET.  The SOU is the annual address presented by the President to the public and the Congress and the state of the nation and the President's agenda for the year. The President is expected to focus on creating jobs and building a stronger economy; the address will be broadcast on the major network stations or can be read on the White House website. Florida Senator Marco Rubio will then provide reactions to the President's remarks as well as a brief outline of the Republican agenda. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul plans to speak about the legislative agenda of the "Tea Party."  


On February 5, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual Budget and Economic Outlook. The outlook shows a slight decrease in yearly deficits in the short term but a serious rise in deficits and debt in the long term. Despite the economic recovery, spending reductions, and increasing tax revenue in the coming years, federal debt held by the public will still reach 76% of GDP by 2014, the highest level since 1950. CBO projects that the largest long-term pressure on the budget is in mandatory health care spending, particularly through Medicare and Medicaid. The cause of this rise is due to overall rising health costs and demographic changes. This projection is likely to renew talks making changes to these two major health programs to achieve savings. CBO comes up with these numbers by trying to predict future spending and revenue based on current laws. Congress uses this projection as a baseline to determine the cost or savings of proposed legislation. For more information, see this post on Key Takeaways from the Bipartisan Policy Center.  

Sequestration Update

Unless Congress acts by March 1st sequestration, a series of automatic cuts, will take place.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a memo last week calculating calculates that sequestration will require an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent for nondefense programs and roughly 8 percent for defense programs.  However, given that these cuts must be achieved over only seven months instead of 12, the effective percentage reductions will be approximately 9 percent for nondefense programs and 13 percent for defense programs. The memo outlines some of the potential impacts.

Senate Democrats plan to introduce a bill to replace the automatic cuts this week. The bill would include tax increases and spending cuts, and would replace the $85 billion sequester.

AUCD signed on to letter signed by 3,200 groups seeking a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter has been sent to all congressional offices, the White House, and the media. AUCD will also be participating in visits to congressional offices all week urging lawmakers to pass a bill that prevents indiscriminate cuts to programs that people depend on.


Long-term Care Commission Appointees

The Democratic Leadership has announced their picks for the federal Commission on Long Term Care. The commission was created as part of the "fiscal cliff deal" (see January 7 In Brief) and is charged with developing a plan to establish, implement, and finance a comprehensive, coordinated, and  high-quality system of long-term services and supports, including the roles of Medicare, Medicaid, and private long-term care insurance. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed Georgetown professor Judy Feder, SEIU United Long Term Care Workers' Union President Laphonza Butler and Dr. Javaid Anwar of Nevada. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed SCAN Foundation President Bruce Chernof, Judith Stein, Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director Judith Stein, and USAgainst Alzheimer's founder George Vradenberg. The House and Senate Republican Leadership have not yet announced their appointees.



First Focus, a non-partisan children's advocacy organization, has issued a new report on why some proposals to cut mandatory spending, particularly by imposing "per capita caps" on Medicaid expenditures, would be bad for people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. This mechanism would replace the current federal-state Medicaid structure by placing arbitrary limits on federal support to states based on subpopulations (e.g. children, adults, individuals with disabilities, seniors).  The analysis concludes that these caps would be just as harmful as block grants.  Additionally, the report outlines that these caps would: (1) lead to administrative complexity, requiring carve outs of the Medicaid population to decide different funding categories, (2) shift costs to the states once the cap is reached, and (3) lead states to ration care by cutting reimbursement rates to providers or  increasing barriers to coverage for eligible people.  Sen. Hatch (R-UT) has already introduced a bill suggesting the use of per capita caps.  See the full analysis here. 


Transition and Employment

On February 5, Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS) reintroduced three bills collectively known as the Transition toward Excellence, Achievement and Mobility (TEAM) Act.  The bills - H.R. 510, H.R. 511, and H.R. 509 seek to redesign federal programs for youth with intellectual disability as they transition from secondary school to the workforce.  The bills, which were referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, would strengthen the transition from high school to workforce/post-secondary provisions of the I.D.E.A., the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.  The bills were originally introduced in the112th Congress.  AUCD continues to support congressional efforts to strengthen transition for youth with disabilities, and will continue to monitor these and future bills that provide quality transition programs and services.

Education:  ESEA State Flexibility Waivers

On Thursday, February 7th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act better known as "No Child Left Behind" and the lessons learned from state flexibility waivers (see October 15 In Brief).  The hearing featured a panel of education reform experts, including Secretary Duncan, state educational representatives, and the President of the Education Trust, an organization that served as a peer reviewer of state waiver applications.  Secretary Duncan's testimony emphasized the benefits of allowing states "to move forward with reforms that benefit all students," including students with disabilities and those from minority or low-income backgrounds.  The Education Trust's testimony pointed out potential risks associated with some of the waiver provisions - e.g. creation of super sub-group accountability.  Currently, 34 states and D.C. have received waivers, with nine other requests under consideration.  Additional states are expected to submit requests by February 28.  The webcast and full testimonies from the panel are available here. 


Mental Health Access

On February 7 a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation, called the Excellence in Mental Health Act that seeks to expand access to mental health treatment by allowing federally qualified mental health centers to bill Medicaid for their services. Co-sponsors include Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI),  Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). According to a Hill press release, the legislation would allow 2,000 mental health centers to serve an additional estimated 1.5 million people each year.


Premature Infants

Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) have introduced the Preemie Reauthorization Act. The law makes premature births an explicit priority and authorized federal research and intervention activities. Programs include research at the National Institutes of Health, data collection at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and demonstration projects through the Health Resources and Services Administration. CDC considers preterm birth to be birth at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy; premature birth can cause a number of disabilities and health complications, including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, breathing and respiratory problems, vision  and hearing loss, and feeding and digestive problems.



Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) introduced H.R. 203, the "Pool Safe Act," which would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to accessibility to public pools.  Currently, the ADA requires all public and commercial entities with pools to install permanent lifts (see last week's In Brief).  H.R. 203 would allow pools to merely provide portable pool lifts upon request even if installing a permanent lift were readily achievable. A similar bill was introduced in the last session of Congress. AUCD opposes this bill and any other bill that intends to weaken the ADA.

 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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