Legislative Update: December 2012
In September, Congress voted to pass a short-term spending increase, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to keep the government funded into early 2013. This funding prevents a government shutdown and allows federal programs and agencies to run through through March 2013.
Although the CR keeps the government running, there are many issues that Congress still has to resolve that will not be fixed by the funding extension. It's hard to listen to the news and not hear talk of the ‘fiscal cliff' facing our country. The term fiscal cliff refers to the fact that the Bush tax cuts, payroll tax cuts and federal unemployment benefits are all set to expire on December 31, 2012. Congress will also have to vote to raise the debt ceiling again.
In the following weeks, Congress has a lot on their plate. In addition to addressing the fiscal cliff, averting a government shutdown and ensuring funding for programs through March, sequestration (across-the-board spending cuts) is scheduled to take place on January 2, 2013. These cuts are meant to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The significant cuts will occur automatically, and $109 billion will be slashed in the first year. The National Institutes of Health faces a $2.5 billion cut, which would certainly have a negative effect on paralysis research. Medicare will be cut by 2 percent, dealing a significant blow to the disability community. In sum, if Congress does not act to stop sequestration, the disability community will be severely impacted.
In addition to monitoring sequestration and its impact on overall funding levels for HHS, NIH, CDC and DOD, we are also keeping tabs on policy surrounding extending the exceptions process for outpatient therapy caps under Medicare. The current exception process, which delays the caps from being implemented, goes through the end of the year.
As Congress develops answers to all these questions we will continue to monitor and update you on the potential impact of these policies on the disability community.