June 22, 2012

June 22 Washington Update

Greetings from Washington.  It's been a fairly quiet week in DC as far as health issues are concerned, but our world will be abuzz next week, when the Supreme Court announces its decision on the health care reform law.

Supreme Court.  Health policy folks in DC, and no doubt many others around the country, are on pins and needles as we await the Supreme Court's announcement of its decision regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The decision should come next week, possibly Monday morning at 10 AM Eastern Time, but it could be another morning next week.  For those of you into this type of thing, here is an article about the actual process through which the court officials provide the Court's opinions to the press and the frenzy that will follow:

http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2012/06/15/hitchhikers-guide-how-health-care-decision-will-unfold.  On June 18, the Washington Post had a Q&A article about ultimate effects of various possible outcomes of the case.

The day following the announcement, whichever day that is, Families USA will be holding an hour-long conference call at 1:00 PM ET and a "tweet chat" at 2:00 PM.  For the conference call, click here to sign up for the call.  To join the chat "live" follow #HealthJustice on Twitter. You can also follow #HCRdecision to get updates all week long from Families USA.

Meanwhile, Family Voices' Communications Director, Melanie Rubin, is working in conjunction with other children's health groups to develop a coordinated response to the decision. 

Bear in mind that the Court's opinion could be complicated since there were several legal issues to be addressed and there could be different combinations of rulings.  On one end of the spectrum, the Court could decide not to decide whether the individual mandate is constitutional. If it determines that the penalty for failing to have insurance is a "tax," then the constitutionality of the individual mandate is not yet "ripe" for review because no one has yet had to pay the tax. In that situation, a case about the individual mandate could not be brought until tax day 2015. If, on the other hand, the Court decides that the penalty is not a tax, then it can go ahead and make a decision about the individual mandate.

Even if the Court punts on the matter of the individual mandate, it could still strike down the ACA's expansion of Medicaid eligibility.  The states have challenged that provision of the ACA on the theory that the expansion is an unconstitutional "coercion" of states, exceeding Congress' authority to tie "strings" to money it provides to the states. 

If the Court should find any part of the law to be unconstitutional, it must decide whether the rest of the law is "severable" so that all or parts of the law that are not unconstitutional can still be implemented.  The court could decide that some parts of the law can be severed from the mandate and thus be implemented, but others must fall with it.  Most likely to be struck down with the mandate are the provisions requiring "guaranteed issue" of insurance, without regard to pre-existing conditions, and limitations on premium differentials (charging some people higher rates than others).

A great summary (3+ pages) of the legal issues before the court, prepared by the National Health Law Program, can be found here.  (This is the same one referred to in last week's update.)  The Families USA website also provides a multitude of resources about the case.  After the ruling is announced, there will no doubt be many other explanatory materials available.

Anniversary of Olmstead decision.  Speaking of the Supreme Court, today was the 13th anniversary of the Olmstead decision, in which the Court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. 

In a press release, the White House enumerated various actions the administration has taken to enforce the decision and help people with disabilities in the areas of long-term care and housing, for example.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also issued a statement.  The Justice Department has a website (http://www.ada.gov/olmstead/) dedicated to Olmstead enforcement, which includes links to settlements, briefs, findings, letters, and other materials, including information on how to file an Olmstead complaint.

Also recognizing the anniversary of the case, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing this week -- "Olmstead Enforcement Update: Using the ADA to Promote Community Integration."  Witness testimony and a recording of the hearing, are available on the Committee's website.

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).  The policy team is intensifying our efforts to garner congressional support for the legislation by meeting with additional Hill staffers. 

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.

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.

Senate health appropriations bill -- CORRECTION.  Last week, this update reported that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education marked up its FY 2013 "Labor-HHS" spending bill, and that the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant received level funding of $640 million.  Actually, the $640 million was an increase of $1.4 million over the amount that was available to the program in FY 2012.  It was the same as the President's budget request.  The AMCHP statement on the bill can be found here


As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.  And keep your fingers crossed about the Supreme Court decision on the ACA!

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.