Major Events Last Week
Congress – 113th Congress sworn in; Nearly 100 new members take office
The 113th Congress (2013-2014) convened on Thursday with eighty-two freshmen lawmakers in the House and twelve in the Senate. Despite modest gains by Democrats, party breakdown will remain mostly unchanged. Democrats will still control the Senate, 55 to 45, and Republicans will still have a majority in the House of Representatives, 233 to 200 (with two vacancies for seats which were held by Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and Tim Scott (R-SC)). The new Congress is more diverse, with women now comprising 20 percent of the Senate and nearly 18 percent of the House.
The House of Representatives re-elected Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) returns as House Minority Leader. The Senate leadership remains unchanged, with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) as Majority Leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Minority Leader. A number of important new Senate Committee chairs were also announced. Of particular interest to the disability community are committees that are important to the disability community will be finalized in the near future.
To see the list of new members of Congress, see:
To see the list of members who have not returned from the last Congress, see:
Health Care – Increased primary care service fees begin this month
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states must raise the Medicaid fees they pay for primary care services provided by family physicians, internists, pediatricians, and nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the level Medicare pays for those services. The federal government will cover 100% of the increased payments which became effective January 1, 2013 and will continue through 2014. The purpose of this section of the ACA was to increase the availability of primary care providers in anticipation of increased demand beginning in 2014 under Medicaid expansion. On average, in 2012, the fees paid for Medicaid primary care services were about 58% of those paid by Medicare. The increase will especially benefit individuals who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid since primary care providers now will receive the full Medicare amount. Additional information about the increased primary care service fees is available from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
Recent Major Events
Budget – Partial Fiscal Cliff Deal Signed by President Obama; Paves the Way for Another Showdown
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (HR 8) was signed into law by President Obama on January 2, the day a series of harmful tax increases and spending cuts had been set to take effect. Most of the tax cuts that had been scheduled to take effect have now been permanently extended, while the automatic spending cuts (originally $1.2 trillion over 10 years) for discretionary programs have been slightly reduced and put off for a two month period.
While this measure temporarily put off a hit to the economy that many feared would lead to another recession and it did not include any cuts in benefits to entitlement programs, it does add nearly $4 trillion to deficits projected over the next decade. The worsened long term budget outlook will add to pressure to cut federal spending in the coming weeks as Congress approaches the debt ceiling negotiations. In the first three months of 2013, additional legislation will be necessary to address other aspects of the nation’s fiscal situation, including an increase in the debt ceiling, the end of the 2-month extension of the sequester (automatic cuts), and appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. These deadlines will set the stage for additional negotiations between the Congress and the White House. There will be mounting pressure to generate additional revenue and to cut the entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare) as well as the discretionary programs (such as housing, education, employment) that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on to live in the community. The Arc will remain actively involved in seeking a balanced approach to deficit reduction by advocating for increased revenue and protecting critical spending programs for our constituents.
Learn more about the fiscal cliff deal at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website http://www.cbpp.org/ and view The Arc statement on our blog.