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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 43: 11/17/2008   
Headlines

Discussions Begin on Health Care Reform, SCHIP a Top Priority

Congress Returns, Maybe

Possible Stimulus Package Could Include FMAP Increase

Capitol Hill Celebration of Fostering Connections Act Set for November 19

Final Numbers on Congress Not Yet Certain

Advocacy Day Will Provide Chance to Talk to New Congress and Administration

On the Line with CWLA, Speaking for America's Children

Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Discussions Begin on Health Care Reform, SCHIP a Top Priority

During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama proposed, among, other modifications to our nation's health care system, requiring all children to have health insurance and expanding Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more low-income individuals. How quickly a comprehensive overhaul of the system occurs will depend in part on the country's economic situation and corresponding competing priorities. Several members of Congress are still gearing up for an in-depth analysis of the current health care system and accompanying reform.

Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) appear to be working together to produce reform legislation built on Obama's principles. Republican input will be sought. On November 12, Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, and SCHIP, unveiled a white paper detailing specific goals and policy options for comprehensive health reform in 2009. Baucus urged the costs of inaction far outweigh any initial outlays. Baucus's "Call to Action" has three "equally important legs"--health coverage for all Americans, improving health care quality and value, and achieving greater efficiency and sustainable health care financing.

Baucus envisions building on the current structure, and as President-elect Obama frequently mentioned during his campaign, allowing "those who already have health coverage [to] keep what they have." Going a step beyond Obama, Baucus would require everyone to have health insurance once affordable options are available. The uninsured would be able to choose and purchase their own plans through a new Health Insurance Exchange, with subsidies available for qualifying families. Medicaid and SCHIP would be expanded to pick up additional eligible adults and children. Baucus also stressed the importance of eliminating discrimination based on preexisting conditions, lessening racial and ethnic disparities, health information technology, and combating fraud, waste, and abuse in public programs.

At the forefront of systematic changes likely will be the reauthorization and possible expansion of SCHIP, the health insurance program for low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and those who are either not offered or cannot afford private coverage. In 2007, the 110th Congress produced and passed two compromise bills (H.R. 976 and H.R. 3963) that would have reauthorized SCHIP for five years, improved upon its initial successes, and provided coverage to millions more eligible children, but President Bush vetoed both measures. As a result, Congress simply extended SCHIP through March 31, 2009, with sufficient funding to maintain current enrollment and avoid shortfalls (P.L. 110-173). Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-CA) have said SCHIP reauthorization will be a top priority for the 111th Congress.

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Congress Returns, Maybe

While members of Congress were returning to work this week for organizational purposes to set the stage for the 111th Congress, just how much more the 110th Congress would do was uncertain. The lame duck session hinges on what actions President Bush is willing to take on a new stimulus package. There is increasing talk of two possible packages, one this year, on matters on which the current President and Congress can find common ground, and a second package early next year, when President-Elect Obama and the new Congress take over.

President Bush has been reluctant to support a second stimulus, and Democrats want a package that at least extends unemployment compensation, increases Medicaid funding (see next article) and includes a few other immediate relief measures. In addition to these elements, Democrats are pushing for some immediate relief for U.S. automakers. The plan would take the funds for automakers from the $700 billion relief package passed before the election. The administration is resistant to that, and some argue that waiting for a new President and Congress may be too late for the automobile sector.

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Possible Stimulus Package Could Include FMAP Increase

If a lame-duck session, expected to commence today, takes place, Congress may consider a second economic stimulus package that could include temporary, additional federal money for state-run Medicaid programs. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to several vulnerable, low-income populations, including children in foster care. In tight economic times, such as our nation now faces, when individuals lose jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid enrollment tends to increase. States, while their Medicaid spending is increasing, must balance their budgets--which can force them to cut vital health care services. For more information, click here.

Many members of Congress and advocates, including CWLA, have been seeking a temporary influx to states' Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). At the end of September, the House passed a $60.8 billion economic stimulus package (H.R. 7110) and the Senate tried to consider a $56.2 billion economic package (S. 3064)--both of which contained a bump to FMAP. Several Congressional hearings have highlighted the need for a second economic stimulus package, with significant support for including an FMAP increase. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also urged prompt passage of a second economic stimulus. President-elect Barack Obama, at both his first post-election press conference and his meeting with President Bush at the White House, expressed his desire to pass a stimulus package sooner rather than later.

CWLA urges its members to contact their members of Congress and ask them to temporarily increase Medicaid funding in any potential economic stimulus package.

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Capitol Hill Celebration of Fostering Connections Act Set for November 19

On November 19, a group of more than a dozen national organizations, spearheaded by the PEW Charitable Trusts, will hold a celebration of the passage and enactment of the Fostering Connections Act, in recognition of the great congressional leadership that led to its passage.

The reception, which will take place 5:00-7:00 p.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-11, is being coordinated by a planning committee that includes CWLA, the Alliance for Children and Families, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Children's Defense Fund, Foster Club, Generations United, Pew's Kids Are Waiting, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and Voices for America's Children.

Invitations have gone out to dozens of members of Congress who championed various elements of the child welfare bill. Key staff members who were so critical to enactment have also been invited. Participants will hear from caregivers, youth, and families impacted by the new law.

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Final Numbers on Congress Not Yet Certain

Late last week, one of three U.S. Senate seats that had not been finalized took a dramatic turn when some late vote counting in Alaska gave the Democratic candidate Nick Begich a lead of several hundred votes over Senator Ted Stevens (R-AL). The change came about as the state began counting some absentee and late mail-in ballots. The state allows votes to be counted if they are postmarked by election day and are received within 10 days for most voters and 15 days for military ballots.

In addition to the uncertainty in Alaska, Minnesota--where Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) holds a lead of 206 votes over Democratic candidate Al Franken--is conducting a mandatory recount. In Georgia, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) failed to get 50% of the vote and is engaged in a runoff with his Democratic opponent, Jim Martin. If Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) caucuses with the Democrats, they would hold a margin of at least 57-43, barring any Republican losses in these three seats.

In the House, at least 255 of the 435 seats are held by Democrats. That is a net gain of 20 seats. In five races, the votes are so close the ballots are still being assessed or counted, and recounts could be possible in some cases. Of those five, four involve Republican incumbents.

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Advocacy Day Will Provide Chance to Talk to New Congress and Administration

Come to Washington to see the new Congress and President in action! CWLA's National Conference on public policy, Children 2009: Children Today...America's Future, February 23-25, will provide attendees with one of the first opportunities to come to Washington under the new 111th Congress and the new President. CWLA encourages early registration and payment in advance. If registering on site, registration must be accompanied by a check, credit card, or signed purchase order authorizing conference registration payment.

Advocacy Day, held on the second day of the conference, gives attendees the opportunity to actively promote CWLA's 2009 priorities, which is sure to build on the progress made so far on CWLA's call to reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth. It will also be critical for members to attend because a new Administration will be following up on the implementation of the new Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L. 110-351). Other issues Congress and the new Administration may be discussing include the elements of an economic recovery plan in light of the growing recession, the completion of the 2009 federal budget, and the need to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Advocacy Day focuses on meeting with Members of Congress and their staff and the new Administration on the issues impacting children, youth, and families. Advocacy Day begins on the Tuesday of the conference with presentations by leaders in Congress on their priorities for 2009, and briefings by the CWLA Government Affairs staff. At lunchtime, participants go to specific state and regional caucuses to discuss the issues, talking points, advocacy tips, and more general information. In the afternoon, Advocacy Day participants take buses to Capitol Hill to meet with their Representatives and Senators.

We encourage everyone attending the conference to schedule meetings with their members of Congress for Advocacy Day, beginning in January, after the new 111th Congress convenes. Stay tuned for contact information and tips on arranging visits. In addition to the great opportunities on Advocacy Day, attendees will be able to attend a range of programs and policy sessions.

This will be an energizing conference and one of the most important advocacy events for child welfare in 2009! Don't forget to register online.

For more information about Advocacy Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold, at cfahrenthold@cwla.org.

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On the Line with CWLA, Speaking for America's Children

On the Line with CWLA is a thought-provoking, interactive radio program focusing on subjects, stories, and strategies of special interest to child welfare policymakers, providers, and practitioners. The program, devoted solely to the welfare of America's vulnerable children, features a forum where numerous points of view and voices of experience within the child welfare universe can be heard.

The live program, hosted by broadcasting veteran Tony Regusters, is a production of CWLA that will provide a platform for CWLA member organizations, their staffs, its partners, and concerned citizens in the national community to share ideas and thoughts about critical issues that affect child welfare agencies, vulnerable children and teens, and their families.

The weekly subject-oriented, solutions-driven program will broadcast Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET and feature indepth, timely discussions with leading child welfare experts, agents, and advocates; leadership and representatives from CWLA's member agencies; and local and national political figures working to improve child welfare and give a voice to child welfare professionals, providers, and practitioners nationwide.

Programming schedule subject to change.

This Week's Show

November 19
A Conversation with Former Foster Child, Reverend Darryl Armstrong

Join an an inviting one-on-one conversation with Reverend Darryl Armstrong, Founder and Chair of the National Association of Foster Children. Armstrong, an internationally and nationally acclaimed teacher, preacher, and motivational speaker is pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey.

Coming Shows

November 26
National Brand Embraces Adoption: Wendy's Works to Find Adoptive Families for Children in Foster Care

Join this enlightening discussion about the work of Wendy's Wonderful Kids, a signature program sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption that was created to provide for full-time adoption recruiters in cities throughout the United States and Canada to facilitate quickly moving thousands of children from foster care into loving, permanent homes.

Wednesday December 3
Bright from the Start


Wednesday December 17
Holiday Blues: The Impact on Families


For more information on the show, visit www.cwla.org/newsevents/cwlaradio.htm.

On the Line with CWLA is a production of the Child Welfare League of America, Arlington, Virginia. Programming schedule subject to change.

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Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

A White House Conference on Children will bring together a cross-section of policymakers, advocates, professionals (including the courts), and families and children directly affected by the child welfare system to create recommendations for policy and change. CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish this important policymaking tradition. The time to act is now. Your support and involvement are crucial.

You can support this effort by going to www.cwla.org/advocacy/whitehouseconf10.htm. There, you can sign on to support CWLA's call for a White House Conference in 2010, let you members of Congress know of your support, complete a survey about what areas you would like to see such a White House Conference focus on, see which members of Congress are cosponsoring the authorizing legislation for a White House Conference, learn how to get your board to pass a resolution supporting this effort, and more!

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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

November 17, 2008: Senate returns to formal session
January 3, 2009: Start of 111th Congress
January 20, 2009: Barack Obama sworn in as 44th President
March 6, 2009: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


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