A Legislative Update

Congressional Schedule & Budget Congress has adjourned until November 13.  The “lame duck” session following the elections will include decisions on numerous expiring tax cuts.  There are also rumors that a “gang of six (or eight)” Senators are working on a bipartisan compromise bill aimed at avoiding the sequester (automatic cuts).  The outcome of any proposals would have to then be agreed to by the full Senate and House of Representatives before going to the President for signature.

Appropriations Happy New Fiscal Year!  FY 2013 begins today, October 1.  Unfortunately, none of the 13 annual appropriations bills have been signed into law.  As reported last week, before Congress recessed, it passed and the President signed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government programs through March 27, 2013.  The CR also includes a reauthorization of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SNAP (food stamp) programs.

National Forum on Disability Issues Five hundred disability advocates attended the NFDI in person on Friday, and approximately 3,000 tuned in to the live webcast of the event in Columbus, Ohio.  Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, Jr., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) spoke on behalf of their respective parties and presented their campaigns’ positions on matters relating to Americans with disabilities (see Columbus Dispatch Article).  Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House Correspondent, moderated an informative and exciting discussion that addressed many key issues, including Medicaid funding, employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and the availability of accessible housing.  Other notable speakers included Ohio Senate candidates Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and State Treasurer Josh Mandel.  Former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho and former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor Neil Romano attended in person and offered their visions about the future of U.S. disability policy.  The forum, which also provided attendees a chance to register to vote, ended with a rally led by Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living, and Betty Williams, past president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered.  They urged the community to stay informed and to go out and vote!  AUCD thanks its Ohio Centers for their support, as well as all of our network members who sent invitations to the candidates and helped promote the event.  An archived video of the event will soon be available on the Forum website: www.nfdi.org.

Health Care Reform Resources Essential Health Benefits The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Health Task Force developed a technical assistance document to help advocates at the state level get involved in their states’ implementation of the Essential Health Benefits package required by the Affordable Care Act.  Essential Health Benefits are a comprehensive set of items and services that must be offered by health plans operating in the individual and small group market, as well as those plans sold through the Exchanges.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has given states flexibility in structuring their essential health benefits, so long as they include the ten benefits outlined in the law.  Notably, these benefits include habilitative and rehabilitative services and devices and behavioral health treatment, but the law does not establish definitions for the ten categories.  States are making these decisions now, so advocates should be engaging with their state leaders to ensure that the Essential Health Benefits package adequately meets the needs of people with disabilities.

Medicaid Expansion The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while simultaneously cutting requirements that states must expand their Medicaid programs, leaves many states in a quandary.  A new Health Affairs brief with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) says it is unclear how many states will now move forward with expanding the program, or what options they have to undertake partial expansions. Previously, the ACA mandated that states expand Medicaid eligibility to adults under age 65 who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.  An additional brief from RWJF’s State Health Reform Assistance Network provides state officials with a guide to conduct their own Medicaid expansion analysis as they consider an expansion.  The brief includes a financial impact worksheet and considerations table, which includes analyses by other states and organizations for them to consider.

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: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164