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AIDS Action Weekly Update

September 27, 1996

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter 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.

Immigration Reform Bill May Be Delayed Until The 105th Congress

The conference report of the Immigration Reform bill (H.R. 2202), which was approved by the House overwhelmingly by a vote of 305-123 Wednesday, September 26, may not see further action during the 104th Congress. The Administration and Senate Democrats have expressed opposition to a number of provisions in the conference report that deny public benefits to legal immigrants. One of these is a provision that denies publicly funded medical treatment of HIV/AIDS to legal immigrants and undocumented persons, while allowing treatment of all other communicable diseases. Another threatens legal immigrants who receive more than 12 months of public benefits with deportation. Neither of these provisions was in the House or Senate version of the bill, but added during conference negotiations in a questionable procedural process. The Administration opposition, combined with the strong desire of Congressional leaders to adjourn soon, and other pressing legislative matters, may result in efforts to reform immigration laws being put off until the 105th Congress. AIDS advocates are pleased to have played such a major role in bringing these discriminatory provisions to the attention of legislators and the Administration.

Omnibus Appropriations Bill Contains President's Numbers For Aids

Lawmakers, anxious to wrap up their legislative schedule quickly will be considering an omnibus appropriations bill which will fund the spending bills that have not yet been passed through FY 97. The FY 97 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R. 3755) will be included in the omnibus measure along with five other spending bills. Several policy proposals are being considered for inclusion in the bill as well. Because the 1996 fiscal year expires September 30, legislators must act quickly to avoid the government shut-downs which plagued the first half of this fiscal year. It may even be necessary to pass a temporary stop gap spending bill should negotiations get bogged down. AIDS programs for prevention, research, care, and training within the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill are certain to enjoy significant increases. While those numbers are not yet public, the increases above FY 96 levels are higher than the increases afforded to AIDS programs in the House-passed and Senate Committee versions of the FY 97 Labor-HHS spending bill. Congressional leaders indicate that a weekend session may be necessary to complete work on the omnibus appropriations bill.

VA-HUD Appropriations Conference Report Signed Into Law

The conference report for the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 3666) was cleared by both the House and Senate earlier this week. While language regarding the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program has not been seen, AIDS advocates are fairly certain that an increase of $25 million for HOPWA has been guaranteed. This increase brings the FY 97 allocation for HOPWA to $196 million, although it is not yet clear whether the $196 million will immediately be available to be run through the HOPWA formula to cities and to states. These additional funds will provide housing services to an additional 6,725 individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.

Also attached to the VA-HUD appropriations bill were three health-related provisions. One of the provisions would require health insurance plans to cover hospital stays of at least 48 hours for mothers and newborns if deemed medically necessary by the physician and patient. Another would require health insurance policies to offer equal coverage for mental illness as they do for physical ailments in the context of annual and life time benefits. Co-payment structures between physical and mental illnesses could however, be different. A third health-related provision would provide veterans benefits for children afflicted with spina bifida as a result of a parent's exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

NIH Reauthorization Passes The Senate Without Incident

The reauthorization of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) passed by unanimous consent in the Senate Thursday, September 26. The one-year reauthorization, passed without debate or controversial amendments regarding fetal tissue and embryo research, making the process much less contentious than usual. The measure elevates the National Center on Human Genome Research to full Institute status, as well as authorizing FY 97 increases for a number of other institutes. The House has not yet acted on this bill, and at this point it is unclear whether the House will act on NIH reauthorization as a free-standing bill or in the context of the omnibus appropriations 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.