AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 6, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
   January 6, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 1
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate return to work this week after the holiday break to start the second session of the 113th Congress. The Senate is expected to work this week to extend unemployment insurance for those long-term unemployed whose benefits expired December 28 and to confirm President Obama's nominee Janet Yellen to be the next chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.


On December 26, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA), a bill negotiated by the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA). The BBA sets overall discretionary spending levels for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 and partially repeals the sequester (for more information see December 16 In Brief).

The BBA included small changes to many existing laws to cover the cost of repealing the sequester, including an increase in Medicaid's ability to collect third party liability payments due to Medicaid beneficiaries and  a two year delay in the reductions of Disproportionate Share Hospital payments required under the Affordable Care Act. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has summarized these and other provisions in an informational bulletin.

While the BBA set discretionary spending levels for the current fiscal year, Congress must still pass the 12 regular appropriations bills or a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government after January 15 when the current continuing resolution expires. The House and Senate Appropriations committees are expected to produce an omnibus bill that includes most, if not all, of the appropriations legislation necessary for the rest of FY14, including the Labor, HHS, Education funding bill. The leaders of the committees -  Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL) in the Senate, and Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) and ranking member Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) in the House - are meeting again this week  to negotiate the bills but aren't expected to release a bill until closer to the 15th.

Here are a couple of important upcoming deadlines:

  • January 15: Current short-term continuing resolution ends
  • January 28: President delivers the State of the Union address
  • February 7: Debt limit extension ends

Affordable Care Act

Health coverage available through the Affordable Care Act, both private plans purchased on the Health Insurance Marketplaces and expanded Medicaid coverage, began on January 1. Six million people had signed up for coverage by December 28, including 2.1 million enrollees in private coverage through the state and federal exchanges (1.1 million of those through the federal and 3.9 million newly eligible for Medicaid. Even more people have gained coverage through the ACA if other parts of the law are taken into account, including the 3.1 million young adults now covered on a parents' plan or those with pre-existing conditions who are now eligible for an employer-sponsored plan.

To accommodate as many enrollees as possible, the administration extended deadlines in late December for those enrolling through the federal exchange at Some enrollees still have until January 10 to pay their first premium, but anyone starting a health insurance application now will wait until February 1 to get coverage. Those who enroll in the first half of the month (January 1-15) can have coverage start as soon as February 1. Those enrolling between January 16 and February 15 can have coverage start as soon as March 1. This pattern of deadlines continues until March 31 when open enrollment ends.

There have been some reports of errors in transferring Medicaid applications between and state Medicaid offices. Those who applied through and were found eligible for Medicaid are encouraged to contact their state Medicaid offices to confirm enrollment.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance (UI) has expired for 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers, including people with disabilities who have lost jobs in the recession. Congress increased the number of weeks that workers could receive federal UI benefits in 2008 in response to the economic downturn. Those benefits expired on December 28. Democrats tried to include the extension of benefits in other bills in the Fall of 2013 without success. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will seek Senate approval of a three-month extension this week. While the measure has some bipartisan support in the Senate, the House is likely to oppose it. AUCD will be at the White House for the President's remarks related to this issue tomorrow.

Medicaid Managed Care

Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced the Medicaid Managed Care Responsibility and Equity Act (S. 1787) in December. The bill would require a minimum medical loss ratio of 85% for Medicaid and CHIP managed care organizations (MCOs), but a minimum ratio of only 80% for an entity in which at least 10% of the enrollees are optional targeted low-income children. Medical loss ratio (MLR) is the amount of premium dollars that health plans must spend on treatments, versus administrative or other expenses. The Affordable Care Act requires all health insurers to meet a minimum loss ratio of 80% or 85%. This bill would extend that requirement to managed care companies operating in the Medicaid program. The most recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that in 2010 only 11 states had minimum medical loss ratio standards for their Medicaid MCOs and the ratios varied from 80% to 93%.

Disability Treaty

AUCD is very disappointed to report that just before the congressional recess, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that he will not support the Disability Treaty. In October and November of 2013, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Menendez, held two hearings on the treaty. A mark-up is expected for early 2014, and both Senator Menendez and Senator Corker were working together on the RUDs (Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations). AUCD is urging Senator Corker to come back to the negotiating table so that ratification of the CRPD can occur during this Congress.  For information about how you can help, see AUCD's Action Center.  For more information about the CRPD, see AUCD's Disability Treaty website.  See also sample tweets and twitter addresses.

Children's Research

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) spoke about the Kids First Research Act (H.R 2019) during the weekly Republican radio address.  The bill was introduced in May of 2013 and passed by the House in December.  The bill ends taxpayers' ability to contribute to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund when filing taxes and transfers amounts in each account maintained for such purpose to a 10-Year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund within NIH.  AUCD has not taken a position on the bill.

Disability Policy Seminar

Please save the date for the annual Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. April 6-8, 2014! Registration details coming soon!


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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