Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 13: 3/26/2007   
Headlines

Budget Resolutions Moving Forward

SCHIP Funding Increased to $750 Million in House Supplemental Bill

CWLA Signs On to Three Health-Related Letters

Sign On to the Statement of Principles for Reauthorizing Juvenile Justice Legislation

CWLA Supports House Mental Health Parity Bill

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Budget Resolutions Moving Forward

Senators devoted last week to a floor debate on the Senate budget resolution. The Senate proposal would add nearly $20 billion to domestic discretionary and veterans' health spending above what the President has proposed. The President's proposal would require cuts to many domestic programs once discretionary money for defense and homeland security are appropriated. The Senate budget resolution provides up to $50 billion over five years for reauthorization and hopeful expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Few changes were made to the Senate proposal during floor debate. Most amendments, and final passage, were along party lines. At the same time, the House Budget Committee was voting out its budget resolution. The House resolution would allocate approximately $24 billion above the President's request, so it designates more than the Senate resolution. Like the Senate resolution, however, it reserves SCHIP funding. The House is expected to debate its resolution by the this week. Once both resolutions are adopted, conferees are likely to agree on a single resolution for consideration after the Congressional spring break in April.

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SCHIP Funding Increased to $750 Million in House Supplemental Bill

On March 15, in approving its war supplemental spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee increased its initial allotment to assist 14 states expected to experience a shortfall in the SCHIP, to $750 million from $735 million. An amendment by Representatives Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Jack Kingston (R-GA) that would require states to engage in a good-faith effort to use emergency funds on children and pregnant women below 200% of the poverty line before covering adults over 18 years old was rejected. In addition to war funding and SCHIP, the House supplemental includes funds for items such as disaster relief, veterans' health care, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The Senate was also working on a supplemental last week that includes SCHIP funding. Proceedings on the supplemental bills are complicated by language regarding the pullout of troops from Iraq. When the legislation will be approved, or what final form it will take, is unclear.

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CWLA Signs On to Three Health-Related Letters

CWLA has signed on to three letters that cover important, pressing matters in children's health care. First, CWLA signed on to a letter sponsored by the National Immigration Law Center that urges members of Congress to support the Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act (S. 764/H.R. 1308). The act would grant states the option to cover lawfully residing pregnant women and children who have entered the country since August 22, 1996. This population is barred from coverage under current law in both SCHIP and Medicaid for five years. As a result, almost half of low-income immigrant children are uninsured--a rate three times higher than that of children from native-born families.

The act would grant states the option to cover this population, which in turn would increase access and decrease the significant disparity, as well as give fiscal redress to states that have elected to extend coverage using state funds.

The other two letters deal with regulations that have already been or may soon be proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would greatly restrict Medicaid services vital to the child welfare population. On January 18, 2007, CMS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would, among other things, drastically reduce public providers' already low reimbursement rates and squeeze state budgets. Subsequently, 226 members of the House and 43 Senators wrote to the Bush Administration to express concern about the proposed regulation's effects.

This letter joins CWLA and many other organizations in urging CMS to reconsider and not implement the rule.

The Administration's FY 2008 budget proposal indicated CMS would soon publish another restrictive regulation--that would narrow the definition of rehabilitation services under the Medicaid Rehabilitative Services option. The Administration proposed a similar limitation in 2005, which Congress explicitly rejected by not including it when enacting the Medicaid provisions of the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act.

Medicaid rehabilitative services provide children in foster care with much-needed treatment to reduce any apparent physical or mental disabilities and help them reach their optimal functioning level. Of the total $3.8 billion in Medicaid funds spent on children involved with child welfare agencies in FY 2001, 13.1% was allocated for rehabilitative services.

CWLA joined with the Coalition to Preserve Rehabilitation and asked key House and Senate committee members to express their concern over this proposed significant change in policy.

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Sign On to the Statement of Principles for Reauthorizing Juvenile Justice Legislation

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is scheduled to be reauthorized this year. CWLA participates in a coalition dedicated to making improvements in the legislation, and we urge organizations to join in this effort and to sign on in support of a Statement of Principles to guide the reauthorization.

The Statement of Principles was developed through surveys and consultations with juvenile justice organizations. To sign on, please reply to info@juvjustice.org. You can view the principles on our website. The deadline to sign on is April 6.

JJDPA is based on a broad consensus that children, youth, and families involved with the juvenile and criminal courts should be guarded by federal standards for care and custody, while also upholding the interests of community safety and the prevention of victimization.

Established in 1974 and most recently reauthorized, with bipartisan support, in 2002, JJDPA provides for
  • a juvenile justice planning and advisory system spanning all states, territories, and the District of Columbia;
  • federal funding for delinquency prevention, and improvements in state and local juvenile justice programs; and
  • operation of a federal agency (OJJDP) dedicated to training, technical assistance, model programs, and research and evaluation, to support state and local efforts.
Under JJDPA, all states, territories, and the District of Columbia must comply with certain core requirements:
  • deinstitutionalization of status offenders,
  • removal of youth from adult jails and lock-ups,
  • sight and sound separation of juveniles and adults in lock-ups,
  • reduction of disproportionate minority confinement.


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CWLA Supports House Mental Health Parity Bill

CWLA has expressed support for the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 (H.R. 1424), introduced earlier this month by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.).

Like the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S. 558), which passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee (HELP) on February 14, and which CWLA also supports, H.R. 1424 would require group health plans, with 50 or more enrollees, that already offer mental health coverage, to provide mental health coverage equal to coverage for other medical conditions. An exemption from the parity requirement exists in both the House and Senate bills if the health plan experiences increased actual total costs of coverage that exceed 2% during the first plan year or 1% in subsequent years.

The bills do diverge on certain matters, however. For example, although the House bill requires any group health plan falling under its provisions to cover the same range of mental illnesses and addiction disorders covered by the federal employee health plan that members of Congress use, the Senate bill does not specify which mental conditions would be encompassed.

A second major distinction is that H.R. 1424 would not preempt state laws that provide greater consumer protections or benefits, whereas the Senate bill would override conflicting provisions of state laws that discuss cost-sharing and treatment limits.

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who introduced S. 558 with Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), has said the two houses will "find ways of working together."

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

March 19-23: Senate committees' target to debate 2008 budget resolution
March 26-30: House committees' target to debate 2008 budget resolution
April 1-30: Child Abuse Prevention Month
April 2-9: Senate Spring Recess
April 2-13: House Spring Recess
May 1-31: Foster Care Month
May 13: Mothers Day and Care About Kinship Week: Sponsor S. 661


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