House and Senate Reach Budget Agreement

Last week, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) reached an agreement on the federal budget. This agreement will help preserve programs that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) rely on, restore order to the federal budget and appropriations process, and reduce the deficit by about $23 billion. Additionally the agreement provides $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, that will be split equally between defense and non-defense discretionary programs, preventing further cuts to important programs such as supportive housing, special education, and funding for critical public health programs.

The House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (H.J. Res. 59), and the Senate is expected to debate and pass the measure early this week.  The deal is a blueprint for spending and revenue over the next two years.  The spending part of the deal would ease the limits on spending for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that had been put in place by sequestration (across-the-board spending cuts). The spending changes do not take effect with the passage of this budget, however. That still requires an appropriations bill to be passed before January 16, 2014, when temporary funding for the government under the current continuing resolution expires. The two appropriations bills that fund the vast majority of disability-related programs, the Labor-Health and Human Services-and Education bill (L-HHS-ED) and the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bills, may ultimately be continued at current spending levels for a while because both have recently encountered opposition in Congress.

While The Arc is pleased that the budget agreement will prevent another government shutdown early next year and does not make major changes to our lifeline programs including Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, we are concerned about what appears to be the expansion of the state Medicaid agencies ability to recoup costs from settlements from Medicaid beneficiaries.  This could affect payments owed to individuals and families who have been harmed, received compensation, and depend on the compensation to pay for expenses beyond what Medicaid covers.  Allowing a state Medicaid agency to recover “any payments” by a third party with legal liability (rather than just those payments for health care items and services, as under current law) would leave beneficiaries without coverage for other basic necessities, such as accessible housing or an accessible van.