The Capitol Insider Newsletter
for the Week of September 12, 2011
Time to get back on the phones and say "Don't Cut Our Lifeline!"
Autism and Other DD Interventions at Risk
Major Events Last Week
Budget/Deficit Reduction – Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction approves operating rules; Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security clear targets for deficit reduction
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held its first in-person organizational meeting on September 8th. This meeting was open to the public and was broadcast on the internet. The Committee gave voice vote approval to rules governing its proceedings that its Co-Chairmen Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) say will allow the panel to conduct its business in an open and transparent manner, but also allow the panel to meet privately. The rules require a majority vote of the 12-member panel to close a hearing or meeting to the public and post transcripts and hearing materials to the Committee’s website. Click here to see the adopted rules.
During the meeting, Committee Members staked out their positions, with Democrats calling for job-creation measures and additional revenue and Republicans focusing on changes in entitlement programs (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security) and budgetary stability. Several Members said they would like to go beyond the panel’s mandate to recommend ways to reduce deficit spending by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The bipartisan Committee, established by the Budget Control Act, is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction which can include spending cuts from all entitlement and discretionary programs as well as revenue increases. The Committee is expected to finalize its plan by late October or early November in order to allow sufficient time for the Congressional Budget Office to develop cost estimates before the November 23 deadline for Congress to vote on its legislative proposal. Learn more about the Budget Control Act and how it may affect funding for discretionary disability-related programs.
Economy - President Proposes American Jobs Act
On September 8th, President Obama addressed a Joint Session of Congress and proposed the American Jobs Act to “to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.” The legislation includes several proposals that relate to priority issues in The Arc’s legislative agenda. These include reductions to the payroll taxes paid by employers and employees. Payroll taxes fund the Social Security Trust Funds; to ensure solvency, any payroll tax reduction must be offset by additional revenues directed to the Trust Funds. The legislation also proposes a tax credit of up to $4,000 for businesses that hire people who have been unemployed for at least 6 months – a group that includes many people with disabilities.
Finally, the President stated that on September 19th, he will release a deficit plan to cover the costs of the American Jobs Act and to stabilize the nation’s debt in the long run. The President stated that the plan will be balanced and will include “modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid.”
Autism – Senate committee clears Combating Autism Reauthorization Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (S. 1094) on September 7th. Despite its name, this bill would provide continued funding to educate professionals about proper screening, diagnosis, and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder as well as many other developmental disabilities. While the HELP Committee vote is an important step forward, the bill must still pass the full Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill faces hurdles on both fronts and there are very few legislative days left before the law expires on Sept. 30. The House majority leadership continues to block any bill that is considered "disease or condition-specific" from floor action. In addition, some in the House still mistakenly believe the CAA does not need to be reauthorized in order for activities authorized under the law to continue. See action alert above.
Health Reform – US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Dismisses 2 Challenges to Affordable Care Act
The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two challenges to the Affordable Care Act: Virginia v. Sebelius and Liberty University v. Geithner. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s suit claimed that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that most people buy health insurance, the so-called individual mandate, violated Virginia law. At the same time the ACA was passed, the Virginia legislature passed a law saying that state residents could not be forced to purchase insurance. The Court held that Virginia did not have the right to sue because “the sole provision challenged here — the individual mandate — imposes no obligations” on the state itself. In the Liberty case, the court said the law cannot be challenged before the mandate goes into effect. Appeals to the U. S. Supreme Court have been promised in both cases.
There is a divide among the circuit courts which most likely will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The 6th Circuit upheld the individual mandate in a June decision, while the 11th Circuit, which heard the high-profile challenge filed by 26 state attorneys general, ruled that the mandate is unconstitutional.
Education - Final Rules Governing Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act Announced
The Department of Education announced final rules governing Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C covers services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The program serves about 340,000 children through age 2 who have developmental delays. The regulations address amendments that were made to Part C in 2004 and give clarity and direction to states that provide early intervention services to infants and toddlers. Read a press release about the rules
Education - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Maintenance of Effort
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the Department of Education issued informal guidance to local schools explaining that they can reduce their local spending on special education services. OSEP’s guidance was triggered by a request from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and concerned a local school district that had not been able to provide the same level of funding for special education in 2011 as it had in 2010. The district was fined for its failure but, according to OSEP, could reduce its 2012 level of special education funding to the 2011 reduced level (when it failed to meet the 2010 level of spending) rather than the 2010 level. Legal advocacy organizations have said they believe OSEP is mistaken and have asked for reconsideration of OSEP’s position. Under the IDEA, States and local school districts are required to keep their spending levels the same from year to year, a provision known as maintenance of effort (MOE). Several states have asked for a waiver from the MOE requirement due to budgetary constraints (Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, and West Virginia).
Education - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B
The Department of Education released a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the regulations governing Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Changes being proposed concern when a school district wants to use a parent’s public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education services (such as therapies). The notice will be published in the Federal Register within the next few weeks.
Housing – House Subcommittee marks up FY 2012 housing appropriations bill
The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee approved the FY 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. In this first step, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program received an allocation from the Subcommittee of $196 million, which is equal to the President’s requested funding level for FY 2012.
Major Events Ahead
Budget/Deficit Reduction – Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to hold first public hearing tomorrow
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on Tuesday, September 13, at 10:30 am EDT. This meet will be open to the public and broadcast on the internet. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf is scheduled to testify on “The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats.” For live broadcast and video archive, see:
Employment – Senate hearing to focus on employment of people with the most significant disabilities
On September 15 at 10:00 am, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on “The Future of Employment for People with the Most Significant Disabilities.”
Health Care - House of Representatives to Review Administration Regulations
The House of Representatives will begin a review of Administration regulations and how they impact business. Environmental and labor rules are expected to receive the most scrutiny, though regulations implementing the Affordable Care Act are also being reviewed. While the House may pass legislation amending or repealing selected rules, the Senate is not expected to follow suit.
Transportation – House to consider short-term extension of surface transportation law
This week , the House is expected to consider a six month extension of the surface transportation law. The surface transportation law authorizes highway and transit programs and is due to expire at the end of the month. The short extension will give Congress additional time to work out differences on a multi-year bill. In addition to federal funding for transit programs, the current law funds a few disability specific programs to improve access to transportation for people with disabilities.
Social Security – New rule on documenting and evaluating disability in young adults
On September 12th, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published Social Security Ruling (SSR) 11-2p in the Federal Register. The SSR consolidates and explains information from SSA’s regulations on documenting and evaluating disability in young adults. It also provides guidance on how SSA applies its policies when it determines whether a young adult is disabled under SSA rules. The SSR is effective upon publication.
Capitol Insider – Next two editions to publish on Tuesday, September 20 and Tuesday, September 27
Due to The Arc’s national convention September 16-19 and the national office’s move to 1825 K Street NW later this month, the next two editions of Capitol Insider will publish on Tuesday, September 20 and Tuesday, September 27. In October, the publication will go back to its regular Monday distribution.
Survey on Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services
The ITEM coalition is collecting information on typical coverage of rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices by employer-sponsored health insurance plans. They are particularly interested in things like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. and devices (durable medical equipment) and things like orthotics, prosthetics, or other assistive devices. If you (or someone you can respond for) has health insurance through an employer and have ever had a disability or chronic condition, please take a moment to respond to this quick 10 question, anonymous survey called "Insurance Coverage of Rehabilitative and Habilitative Devices," at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LY58SY5. The survey closes on September 23 and the results will help The Arc and other members of the ITEM coalition to advocate for comprehensive coverage of these services and devices within the new insurance exchanges.