AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 4, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  March 4, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 9
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in session this week and for the remainder of March, until the Passover/Easter recess starting March 25.

Federal Funding/Sequestration

On Friday night, March 1, the Office on Management and Budget (OMB) issued a report to the federal agencies directing discretionary and mandatory spending cuts resulting from "sequestration" being triggered.  Cuts are expected to be at least 5% but could be 9% or more depending on when and how grants or programs are funded. Social Security, Medicaid and most mandatory spending programs are exempt from sequester.  Medicare cuts are capped at 2%. In addition, under a provision in the law, the Medicare cuts will not begin until April 1, and they will affect only medical providers, not patients.

Last week two bills intended to replace the sequester cuts were considered in the Senate (one bill sponsored by Democrats; one by Republicans); however, neither received the 60 votes needed to pass.  The President also held a meeting at the White House with congressional leaders, but the talks failed to produce a deal to prevent the cuts from being triggered.

The House also introduced partisan bills during the last Congress that would replace the sequester; however, none achieved the bipartisan support needed to pass the House and be taken up by the Senate.

The next opportunity to stop the sequestration cuts will be within negotiations over the continuing resolution (CR), which expires March 27. But with Republicans and Democrats still at odds over whether any revenues can be used to replace the spending cuts, it's unclear whether there is the basis for an agreement even then.

Linked here is the Memorandum to House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid ordering the sequestration. The order is accompanied by a report, "that provides calculations of the amounts and percentages by which various budgetary resources are required to be reduced, and a listing of the reductions required for each non-exempt budget account." The order states that "agencies shall apply the same percentage reduction to all programs, projects, and activities (PPA) within a budget account. Agencies should operate in a matter that is consistent with guidance provided by OMB in Memorandum 13-03, "Planning for Uncertainty with Respect to Fiscal Year 2013 Budgetary Resources" and Memorandum 13-05, "Agency Responsibilities for Implementation of Potential Joint Committee Sequestration." While we know that sequester cuts must happen at the PPA level, we do not always know exactly what this is, because many federal departments do not define it. This lack of clarity has made it difficult for stakeholders to estimate the direct impact of sequestration on any particular program or initiative, and means that it will ultimately be up to OMB to determine what constitutes a PPA for each covered account.

We expect Federal agencies, including AIDD, HRSA, and NIH, to be issuing more specific guidance to grantees this week. For more information (including federal government memos) and background on sequestration, see the Center for Effective Government's "Sequestration Central". 

ACA Implementation

States continue to move forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including creating state-based Health Insurance Exchanges and implementation of the Medicaid expansion. As of late February, 18 states have declared their intention to create a state-based exchange; seven are planning to build an exchange in partnership with the federal government, and 26 will default to allowing the federally run exchange. On the Medicaid side, 27 states will implement the expansion; 16 oppose the expansion; and 8 are still deciding. The Kaiser Family Foundation has compiled this information in a useful chart and map of where states stand on exchange and expansion. Families USA has also complied a series of state-based briefs on the economic benefits of the Medicaid expansion.

AUCD and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Health Task Force submitted comments last week on the proposed streamlined applications for the exchanges, Medicaid, and CHIP. These applications will allow individuals to apply for subsidies to purchase insurance through the exchanges, or apply for Medicaid or CHIP. AUCD and CCD commented on the proposed questions to determine disability status, suggesting language on identifying impairments rather than identifying as an individual with a disability, in order to more accurately capture those who are eligible for a more robust benefit package.

Health Advocacy Resource

Families USA has compiled a list of 10 tips for engaging communities of color in policy change. This list is based on a brainstorming session held at their annual Health Action conference, moderated by Community Catalyst. 

Appropriations/Public Health

The House Appropriations Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services Subcommittee has scheduled an oversight hearing on Tuesday, March 5 that includes testimony of the directors of the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  Health Resources and Services Administration, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. For more information, see the committee website.

Violence Against Women Act

The U.S. House voted 286-138 Thursday to pass a Senate version of a bill (S. 47) renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The measure now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. Eighty-seven Republicans joined all 199 Democrats to pass the bill in the House. Earlier, House Republicans failed to pass their own version of the bill. The bill reauthorizes the disability grant program, which addresses the gaps in abuse suffered by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims with disabilities.  The bill strengthens this section (203) by adding the use of evidence-based indicators to assess the risk of domestic and dating violence homicide. The authorized funding for the disability grant program is reduced from $10 million to $9 million. The bill also updates the anti-discrimination provision for VAWA grantees. The bill creates uniformity so that a grantee may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. According to research, women with disabilities tend to suffer from additional types of abuse, for longer durations, and at the hands of a greater number of perpetrators. For more information, see AUCD's press release.

Employment/SKILLS Act

On Feb. 25, Rep Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has introduced the "SKILLS Act" (Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills, H.R. 803), legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. AUCD signed onto a CCD Employment Task Force letter opposing the bill.  The bill, similar to the bill by the same name introduced in the 112th Congress, consolidates and reduces funding for many employment programs that assist people with disabilities, including the Supported Employment program. The House Education and Workforce Committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday, March 6. According to the committee, the purpose of the legislation is to streamline federal employment and training programs and create more flexibility in funding. The bill has 14 co-sponsors.  See the archived Feb. 25 committee hearing on the WIA reauthorization.  Rep. Tierney (D-MA) also introduced a bill to reauthorize WIA (H.R. 798).  It is not yet clear whether the committee will consider the Democratic alternative.

Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar (April 15-17) is fast approaching! Topics to be discussed at the Seminar include: Medicaid and Community Living, Federal Funding, Social Security, Employment and Education, Health Care, and Asset Development. Wednesday morning features a Breakfast on the Hill with Members of Congress and staff. Check our draft program schedule for more information. Registration rates increase after March 12 and hotel rooms are filling up quickly. AUCD is also hosting a webinar orientation on March 18 for students, trainees, and early career professionals to get ready for the DPS. AUCD's trainee symposium and reception will be held on Sunday night from 4-7:30pm. Don't forget to schedule your hill visits and visit to learn more about the seminar.

 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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