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AIDS Action Weekly Update

September 6, 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.

Targeted Adjournment Date Moved Up

In an effort to wrap up the 104th Congress as soon as possible, GOP leaders are considering moving the adjournment date to September 27; it was originally set for October 4. This new date will mean less time to pass the bulk of the appropriations bills and other pending legislative matters such as the FY 97 Defense authorization bill, immigration reform, overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration, and the Defense of Marriage Act which will allow states the option to not recognize same-sex marriages. The new target adjournment date also makes the possibility of a continuing resolution (CR) an almost certainty. While the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 3666) has been passed in both the House and Senate and is ready for conference, the FY 97 Labor-HHS-Education (H.R. 3755) appropriations bill which contains the bulk of the AIDS programs has not and will likely be rolled into the CR. See more below for more on the appropriations bills.

Senate Passes VA-HUD Appropriations Bill

The Senate passed the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 3666), Thursday, September 5, by a vote of 95-2. As in the House bill, the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program was flat-funded at a level of $171 million. HOPWA, which has not received an increase in three years, is funded through a formula grant program so that the money allotted to it must accommodate the increasing number of jurisdictions eligible to receive funding through the program. Because this bill will be conferenced very quickly and is unlikely to get vetoed, AIDS advocates must pressure the administration to intervene at the conference level and insist upon the $25 million increase that was in the president's revised FY 97 funding request for HOPWA. The additional $25 million will provide housing services to an additional 6,725 individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.

Two health care related amendments were attached to the Senate version of the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill. One, sponsored by Senators Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), and Bill Frist (R-TN) requires health care insurers to allow new mothers to stay in the hospital for 48 hours following a normal delivery and up to 96 hours after a Cesarean section. The other amendment, sponsored by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) requires health care insurers to set the same level of lifetime and annual caps for mental health benefits as for physical health benefits. A broader version of this amendment was dropped from the final version of the Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 3103).

Action On Labor-HHS Appropriations To Occur Next Week

The Senate FY 97 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R. 3755) is scheduled to be marked up in subcommittee Tuesday, September 10 and in full committee Thursday, September 12. Because the targeted adjournment date of the 104th Congress has been moved up to September 27, it is highly unlikely that this bill will see Senate floor action, and if it does, the chances are even slimmer that it will be conferenced and signed into law. Because this bill will almost definitely be rolled into a continuing resolution (CR), AIDS advocates must strongly urge their members of Congress as well as the administration to provide the highest possible levels for the AIDS prevention, care, research, and training programs contained in this bill.

Presidential Health Panel To Be Formed

In an effort to set the groundwork for health care policy initiatives for a second term, and to address the rapidly changing health care industry, President Clinton will appoint a federal commission to recommend ways in which to ensure protection of consumers. The group will especially focus on the impact of managed care plans that are overtaking the health care system. The administration reports that nearly half of Americans with health insurance are enrolled in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) or some other type of managed care plan, and the government has received increasing numbers of complaints that the quality of care has decreased as insurance companies have attempted to hold down costs. AIDS and other health care advocates are particularly concerned about how managed care will affect the quality of care received by their constituencies. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and Labor Secretary Robert Reich will head up the panel which will be known as the National Commission on Health Care Quality. The panel will be comprised of up to 20 individuals and include consumers, health care providers, insurers, labor leaders, and business executives.

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.