AUCD Legislative News In Brief

December 2, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  December 2, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 47
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Congressional Schedule

The House is in session this week. The Senate is in recess until December 9. The House and Senate will start holiday recess on December 13 and 20 respectively, leaving only five days in December when both the House and Senate will be in session at the same time. During this time the budget conference committee must report a concurrent budget resolution (see more below) and Congress must finalize the farm bill and National Defense Authorization Act. For more on the Congressional to do list, see this article from The Washington Post.


The budget conference committee has until next Friday, December 13, to come to an agreement on a concurrent budget resolution that sets a topline spending number. Both Representative Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Murray (D-WA) have expressed optimism that they can reach a deal on a budget resolution that sets a spending plan for the next fiscal year and provide some relief from sequestration cuts. According to staff for other committee members, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are off the table for offsetting cuts but the committee may look to other mandatory spending to pay for the sequestration fix.  Appropriations committee chairs Senator Mikulski and Representative Rogers have indicated that they would like the budget committee to finish its work as soon as possible so they can begin work on appropriations bills necessary to fund government functions after the continuing resolution expires on January 15. However, an early resolution to negotiations seems unlikely.

Affordable Care Act

Days remaining in open enrollment: 119

In response to well-publicized reports of troubles with the federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace at, the Obama administration promised the site would be fixed by the end of November, working smoothly for the "vast majority of users". According to the White House, their target has been met as of December 1. The site can now serve 50,000 people at once with a less than 1% error rate in page loads. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius published pieces in The Huffington Post and USA Today this morning personally encouraging people to return to the improved site. However, The New York Times and The Washington Post are still reporting errors with back-end systems that report information to health insurance companies. For basics of what went wrong and what continues to go right, see this article from Kaiser Health News.

Pediatric Research

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has indicated that he plans to bring up the Kids First Research Act (HR 2019) before the Christmas recess. Originally introduced in May (see June 10 In Brief), the bill would end public financing of party conventions and instead direct those funds - $126 million over 10 years - to the National Institutes of Health Common Fund to support pediatric research. The bill was introduced by Gregg Harper (R-MS), who has a child with fragile-X syndrome. The bill has 152 co-sponsors and faces both bipartisan support and opposition. Some conservatives have opposed the bill because they believe any cuts should go to deficit reduction, while some progressive have opposed the bill because they are concerned the funds will not reach NIH through the appropriations process.


Senators Murray (D-WA) and Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to expand access to behavioral health treatment, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), to children and adult with developmental disabilities in in the health care system for military families (TRICARE). A similar provision was passed by the House in June. Decades of research show the effectiveness of behavioral health care for children with significant developmental disabilities to be successful in school and live independently. TRICARE currently provides limited coverage of ABA under three different programs that many have reported are confusing and difficult to access. The bill is scheduled for floor debate on December 9. To support the amendment, see our action alert.  

Physician Payment Rates

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a session for December 12 to mark up a bill that would replace how Medicare payments to physicians are calculated. The bill would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), a payment methodology created in 1997 that was intended to control costs. Since the SGR was created Congress has voted repeatedly to suspend or adjust the cuts to provider payments that it demands for fear of diminishing provider access for Medicare beneficiaries, a change colloquially known as the "doc fix." The mark up is based on a bipartisan, bicameral framework for replacing the SGR that the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees released in October. Most budget and health policy experts support replacing the SGR with a more sustainable payment mechanism and the American Medical Association has praised the committees for their work but stopped short of endorsing this specific proposal. 

Long-Term Services and Supports

The Senate Special Aging Committee will hold a hearing on December 18 called "The Future of Long-Term Care Policy: Continuing the Conversation." The hearing is meant as a follow up to the Long-Term Care Commission that finished its work in September. 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

AUCD joined other disability leaders in supporting Chai Feldblum's nomination for a second term on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Commissioner Feldblum has been a strong champion for people with disabilities, including in the issuance of strong regulations from the commission implementing the ADA Amendments Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Her nomination was approved in a bipartisan vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee but must be approved on the Senate floor before the end of the year.


New from the AUCD legislative staff: 7 Reasons Why You Are Absolutely Required to Educate Policymakers.

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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

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