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AIDS Action Weekly Update

June 21, 1996

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter for Handsnet subscribers that reviews what is happening in Washington on AIDS policy issues each week. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at the e-mail address listed below.

VA-HUD Appropriations Delayed

The vote on the House FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill has been delayed until Tuesday, June 25. The bill was to have been taken up on the House floor Thursday, June 20, but work on the FY 97 Interior appropriations bill continued throughout the day and afternoon. As reported in last week's update, a bipartisan amendment to increase funding for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program by $15 million will be offered on the House floor. HOPWA has been flat-funded since FY 95, but because it is a formula grant, level-funding results in cuts to many jurisdiction as the same amount of money must be used to accommodate the yearly increase in the number of eligible jurisdictions. The $15 million increase, while not enough to cover the increasing need, will raise funding for this program back to the FY 95 pre-rescission level of $186 million. The amendment is sponsored by Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT), Gerry Studds (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Michael Flanagan (R-IL), Steve Gunderson (R-WI), Barbara Kennelly (D-CT), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Connie Morella (R-MD), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), and Nita Lowey (D-NY). AIDS advocates are encouraged to call their representatives and urge them to support this amendment.

Labor-HHS Appropriations Mark-Up in Full Committee Next Week

The House FY 97 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which was scheduled to have been marked up in full committee this week, has been delayed until next Tuesday, June 25. The bill, which contains increases in funding for AIDS programs--the Ryan White CARE Act, prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--could be voted on in the House as early as next week. While gratified by the funding increases, AIDS advocates still have concerns about a number of issues in this bill including the failure of legislators to restore budgetary authority for the Office of AIDS Research (OAR) at the NIH. No further action on AIDS programs is expected in the House. We are hopeful of protecting our increases for AIDS programs as the bill moves to full committee and the House floor and will work for restoration of OAR budgetary authority and additional increases in prevention and Ryan White when the bill moves to the Senate.

Health Insurance Reform Stall Continues

The stall of the conference for the Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 3103) continues as Senate conferees have not yet been named. The lack of agreement over medical savings accounts (MSAs) continues to hold up the conference with Republicans in support of a plan to make MSAs available to small employers and the self-employed and many Democrats favoring a smaller-scale demonstration program for MSAs. A group of conservative to moderate House Democrats sent a letter to the president encouraging him to accept some form of compromise on the MSAs, but the Administration has stated objections to the current compromise which would affect over 40 million individuals.

Medicaid Will Not Go to the Floor
Until After July Recess

The Medicaid Restructuring Act of 1996 which is part of the first of three budget reconciliation bills was marked up by the House Commerce Committee last week, but likely will not see floor action until after the July recess. The bill, which would eliminate the entitlement status of the program and replace it with block grants and cut the growth in Medicaid spending by $72 billion over six years, has met with the opposition of the Administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala testified that President Clinton would veto the Medicaid bill in its current form. It is still unclear whether the House leadership will bring Medicaid to the floor with a welfare proposal or address welfare reform and Medicaid in separate legislation. The July recess will begin for the Senate June 28 and June 29 for House members with both set to return July 8.

Possible Continuing Resolution As Insurance Policy

In an effort to avoid the partial government shutdowns of last year and early this year, the GOP leadership is considering passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund appropriations bills that have not been passed through March of 1997. The CR would continue funding for programs at their FY 96 levels, to be superseded as each appropriations bill is passed. AIDS advocates are staunchly opposed to a flat-funded CR as our programs would not be able to enjoy the increases afforded to them in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill and the possible increase in the VA-HUD bill.

For more information contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.