June 15, 2012

June 15 Washington Update

Greetings from Washington.  This week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Senate version of the FY 2013 bill to fund "discretionary" health (and education and labor) programs, including the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.

Senate health appropriations bill.  This week the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education marked up its FY 2013 "Labor-HHS" spending bill, which was subsequently approved on a party-line vote by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.  The House will be developing its own version of the bill in the near future.  Nevertheless, it is not expected that a final House-Senate agreement on the Labor-HHS bill will occur until after the election.  In the meantime, these agencies (if not the entire federal government) will be funded through a "Continuing Resolution" at FY 2012 spending levels.

Several of the programs of interest to CYSHCN and their families fared relatively well in the bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant received level funding of $640 million, which, in this budget-cutting climate, should be considered a victory.  The AMCHP statement on the bill can be found here

In addition, the bill provides $4.99 million for the Lifespan Respite program, a doubling of current funding levels and $2.5 million more than the President requested.  It also includes level funding of $153.6 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program and $6.36 for the Native American Caregiver Support Program.  In addition, the bill includes funding for several initiatives to help people with disabilities, aimed at, among other things, transitioning to employment, early childhood intervention, assistive technology, and decreasing the backlog of disability determinations at the Social Security Administration.  (See pages 12-13 of the Committee Report.)

F2F funding bills (S. 2123 and H.R. 4083).  There are no new cosponsors this week, so the tally stands at nine Senate cosponsors, in addition to Senator Menendez, and 10 House cosponsors, in addition to sponsor Representative Pallone (D-NJ). 

If we hope to get the F2Fs re-funded, Members of Congress will need to hear from F2Fs about how effectively they are spending their federal grant funds, and from families about how important F2F services have been in their lives.

You will be hearing more from us shortly about some specific steps you can take to bolter congressional support for the legislation. 

In the meantime, if your Members of Congress have not yet cosponsored the legislation, please contact them to ask that they do so.  See the guidance at the end of this update or click here now to send a pre-drafted letter to your Representative. 

Also, please forward this information to your family, friends, and health care providers, and ask them to contact their Members of Congress as well.  And, if you haven't done so already, please thank your Senator(s) and Representative who have cosponsored the legislation. You can find their contact information by clicking on their names on the list of cosponsors at the end of this update.

Supreme Court.  It's getting closer to Decision Day, but we're still waiting with bated (just learned it's not "baited") breath. ... Stakeholder groups, political party leadership, and no doubt the White House, are all developing press releases and talking points in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) individual mandate (requirement to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty) and Medicaid expansion.  Most people are betting on the Court's announcement of its decision to come on Monday, June 25, although it is possible that it could come as early as this coming Monday.  Family Voices' Communications Director, Melanie Rubin, is working in conjunction with other children's health groups to develop a coordinated response to the decision.  A great summary (3+ pages) of the legal issues before the court can be found here.

Insurers' announcement.  Speaking of the Supreme Court decision, three large insurance companies - UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, and Humana - announced that they would continue to follow some of the ACA's reforms even if the law is struck down.  Specifically, they said that they would continue to allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health insurance policies, would continue to cover preventive care without copayments, and keep the third-party appeals process for denials of coverage mandated by the ACA.  See http://www.philly.com/philly/health/20120617_UnitedHealth__Aetna_react_before_Supreme_Court_ruling_on_health_reform.html?cmpid=138896554#ixzz1xuESTGur.

ACA implementation information.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to issue regulations on the ACA and (some) states continue their efforts to implement the law. 

There are several resources for figuring out exactly where your state stands in the process of ACA implementation. The State Refor(u)m team, of the National Academy for State Health Policy, has compiled a chart that highlights states' ACA implementation activities in seven areas, including: exchanges, eligibility systems, rate review, and public engagement.  View the state activity chart or download state activity maps.  In addition, the State Refor(u)m team has compiled a chart highlighting state activity around selecting essential health benefits benchmark plans, which states will be required to establish based on one of four options outlined in an HHS bulletin and FAQ.  

The Kaiser Family Foundation has also developed a table showing the status of state creation of Exchanges under the ACA.  You can click on your state to get more details and an explanation of the terms used in the table.

Another resource is a series of HHS-sponsored interactive conference calls for the public to discuss the benefits and provisions of the ACA.  People can submit questions to be addressed on the calls to ACA101@hhs.gov.  To participate in one of the conference calls, you can select a date from the list below and submit the necessary information. Call-in information will be made available 24 hours in advance.  Calls will be held on June 19 at 2:00 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in Spanish); June 21 at 4:00 pm ET - Tour of www.HealthCare.gov; July 19 at 12:30 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in English); July 24 at 2:00 pm ET - The Health Care Law 101 (in Spanish).

Father's DayIn case you haven't seen it, Family Voices issued a wonderful statement about the important role of fathers in the lives of their children with special health care needs.  

You might also be interested in a book I recently heard about on NPR (but have not read), called "Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son."  More information on the book and a link to a radio interview with the author, whose adult son has autism, can be found at http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2012-06-14/buzz-bissinger-fathers-day-journey-mind-heart-my-extraordinary-son.


As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.  Happy Father's Day!


Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.

Janis Guerney, Esq.


NOTE:  Past issues of the Washington update can be found on the Family Voices home page by scrolling down in the "News Feed" section.


Cosponsors of House F2F funding bill, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ):

Rep Langevin, James R. [RI-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] - 2/17/2012
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Cicilline, David N. [RI-1] - 2/17/2012
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 2/17/2012
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 2/17/2012
Rep Green, Gene [TX-29] - 3/5/2012
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] - 3/8/2012
Rep Roybal-Allard, Lucille [CA-34] - 3/20/2012
Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7] - 4/26/2012


Cosponsors of Senate F2F funding bill, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez:

Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 2/17/2012
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 2/17/2012
Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] - 2/17/2012
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 2/17/2012
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 2/17/2012
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 3/13/2012
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/8/2012
Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 6/4/2012
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 6/5/2012


Contacting your Members of Congress about F2F funding bills


All of you who are concerned about the future of F2Fs should contact your Members of Congress to urge that they cosponsor the Menendez or Pallone bill. You can call them through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  (To find the names of your Members of Congress, go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm.)  When you speak to the receptionist, state that you are a constituent and ask to speak to the staff person who handles health issues.  If that person is not available to talk, you can leave a BRIEF message identifying yourself as a constituent who has a child with special health care needs (if applicable) and asking that the Representative/Senator cosponsor a bill that would extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers.  Refer to the appropriate bill number and sponsor - in the Senate, S. 2123, sponsored by Senator Menendez; in the House, H.R. 4083, sponsored by Rep. Pallone.  Leave your home phone number and email address.


You can also write to your Representative (even if you call) via the "Advocacy" section of the Family Voices website, where you will find a pre-written letter that you fill in with your personal information.  (You do not need to know the name of your Representative.)  Please ask families you have worked with, friends, and relatives to write their Representatives through the Family Voices website also.  The URL is http://www.familyvoices.org/action/advocate.   At this time, the website is not configured to automatically send the letter to Senators, but simple instructions about how to contact your Senators, and text to copy and paste, can also be found on that page.  (You do not need to know the names of your Senators.)


Remember:  Federal resources may not be used for lobbying activities.


Please feel free to call Brooke or Janis (contact information above) if you have any questions.