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

   
   
Vol. 24, Issue 20: 6/20/2011   
Headlines

Debt Ceiling Negotiations Intensify

Medicaid Not Off the Table Just Yet

Upcoming Audio Conference with Chairman Paul Ryan

Three Panels Discuss IV-B Reauthorization

Key Upcoming Dates



Debt Ceiling Negotiations Intensify

This week negotiations on increasing the federal debt limit intensified as Vice President Joseph Biden oversaw three separate sessions seeking compromise. The negotiations include proposals for major reductions in federal spending and changes to the Medicaid program, both of which would have serious consequences for child welfare programs. These meetings signify a turn in the negotiations and signaled there might be significant progress. It remains to be seen what decisions are being made as to spending reductions and programmatic changes. Itís not clear yet when negotiations might wrap up.

Meanwhile the House Judiciary Committee passed legislation (H.J. Res. 1) last Wednesday for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. House leaders are pushing for a balanced budget requirement to be included in any agreement on raising the debt ceiling. This bill requires the federal budget to be balanced every year. It sets a limit on expenditures to 18% of gross domestic product, down from the current level of 24%, and it would set strict conditions to enact tax increases. The Senate has not taken up this or any similar bill yet.

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Medicaid Not Off the Table Just Yet

While talks of turning Medicaid into a block grant have slowed dramatically, the fact remains that there will be some level of Medicaid cuts that states and beneficiaries will have to face. The extent of the cuts varies from plan to plan, but nearly all of the major budget proposals (aside from the one put forth by the House Progressive Caucus) include cuts of some sort to this and other entitlement programs. As Congress and the Administration continue to look for ways to reduce the federal deficit, Medicaid remains one of the biggest targets. In particular, as the budget negotiations continue at the federal level, states will have to start considering what these cuts will mean for their service providers and their beneficiaries.

As states prepare to see a decrease in the federal share of Medicaid, we are likely to see an increase in Medicaid waiver requests as states seek some form of fiscal relief (keep in mind that the enhanced FMAP, or Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage, will phase out at the end of this month). While waivers allow states greater flexibility to best meet the needs of their constituents, some states use waivers to avoid covering costly enrollees. One thing is for certain: the Medicaid beneficiaries that constitute the majority of the expenditures (including children in the child welfare system and others with disabilities) will continue to depend on Medicaid at an alarming rate. For many of these individuals, Medicaid is their sole safety net.

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Upcoming Audio Conference with Chairman Paul Ryan

On Friday, June 24th, research and advocacy group CLASP will host an audio conference featuring House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan will discuss the budget debate thatís dominating Washington and offer insight into his budget proposal and Americaís fiscal future.

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Three Panels Discuss IV-B Reauthorization

As anticipated in the last Children's Monitor, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on reauthorization of Part IV-B of the Social Security Act. Comprised mainly of two parts, IV-B provides more than $700 million in both mandatory and discretionary annual funding for states, tribes, and territories. The funding is used to provide maltreatment prevention, family strengthening, and intervention services to all children and their families, regardless of but not excluding foster care status.

The hearing was divided into three panels, comprised of a spectrum of stakeholders. Representatives Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) and Karen Bass (D-CA) offered comments for the first panel. Rehberg spoke about family-based substance abuse treatment while Bass highlighted promising practices like differential response and upfront assessments. Administration on Children, Youth and Families Commissioner Bryan Samuels offered testimony for the second panel. He talked about improving the child welfare system with trauma and child development-informed practice and more resources to tend to childrenís socio-emotional needs. In response to questions about efficiency and accountability, he pointed to the administrationís proposal for $250 million in additional funding for a performance grant. The hearing was rounded out by the third panel of service providers and advocates. It included Kentucky Department for Community Based Services Commissioner, Patricia Wilson; Supreme Court of Virginia Court Improvement Program Director Lelia Baum Hopper; American Public Human Services Association Executive Director Tracy Wareing; American Humane Association Policy and Government Affairs Director John Sciamanna; and Michigan Department of Human Services Childrenís Services Administration Deputy Director, Steve Yager. Committee questions focused on evidence-based practice. Testimony for each panelist is listed on the Ways and Means Committee website.

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Key Upcoming Dates

As part of the CWLA budget campaign, These Cuts Won't Heal, the Government Affairs Division is hosting a series of members-only webcasts. Tune in Mondays at 3 p.m. Eastern for discussion of recent developments in the budget negotiations. Registration for the webcast series is ongoing.

June 27 to July 5: House recess
July 1 to July 11: Senate recess

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