The Brain Injury Association of America enriches us with activity in government updates.  Of particular interest is the deconstruction of our nation’s health care. The Affordable Care Act is being dismantled in favor of a yet unknown substitute.

Recently President Trump called for an investigation of alleged Obama wire taps accusing President Obama of listening in on his private conversations.  This is a distraction from the ongoing and getting worse Russia situation.  It will be interesting if the alleged Russian contact ever testifies about the conversations he had with the, now, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the scandal for unknown reasons.  Usually a Judge will recuse himself for conflicts such as, having an interest in a business of one of the litigants, or other relationship with one of the parties. This seems to be, perhaps, the Attorney General having participated in the disputed facts.

A few days ago, the Senate confirmed Dr. Ben Carson to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and former Texas governor Rick Perry as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Please read through to my conclusion at the end. Please post any comments as we are interested in your opinion. We are now in March 2017. Here are things you should know about that will affect us all.

March 3, 2017

President’s Speech to Congress

Although not billed as a State of the Union Address, President Trump delivered his first speech to Congress Tuesday night. Among his legislative agenda is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), overhaul taxes, fund a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, and increase military and security spending. To pay for the proposed increase of $54 billion for the military, the President is proposing to cut about the same amount from non-defense discretionary programs. Non-defense discretionary programs refer to programs which receive an annual appropriation, such as programs authorized by the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act.

The President sent his blueprint for his budget recommendations to government agencies on Monday, whereby federal agencies will recommend program cuts and elimination in order to achieve the President’s goal of increasing defense spending. At the same time, the President is not calling for cuts from veterans’ programs, law enforcement, or entitlement programs (i.e., Medicaid, Social Security, etc.).

House GOP Plans to Mark Up Health Care Proposal

There are conflicting stories as to the House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees’ intent on voting on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) starting next week. The disability community received word that the Energy and Commerce Committee is to mark up a bill next week and then the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing after that to discuss taxes associated with the ACA. As such, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), of which the Brain Injury Association of America is a member, sent an organizational sign on letter calling into question the Committees’ intent to repeal and replace the health care plan without opportunity for public input.

Lawmakers have floated their intentions of restructuring the Medicaid program by shifting the entitlement program to one with per capita caps or turning the program into a block grant program with a fixed amount to states and for the states to administer. The goal is to cut Medicaid costs in order to offset the costs associated with the repealing of taxes pertaining to the ACA. Politico reported that House Energy and Commerce Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he would be sharing an “initial staff draft” with Committee Members this Thursday. He didn’t say when it would become public or confirm any markup hearing in his Committee next week.

Republican leaders have been calling for a replacement bill that would cover pre-existing conditions, encourage health savings accounts, offer tax credits, and provide assistance for state high risk pools for those with health conditions. Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation has posted information about the current proposals on its website to allow you to compare the ACA and four of the proposed replacement plans. That resource is available here.

Advocates Asked to Help CBITF Circulate Letter in Support of Funding for TBI Programs

With the current environment focused on cutting federal funding next year, advocates are called on to help support funding for TBI Act programs, NIDILRR Model Systems, and research by asking their U.S. Representatives to sign on to a Congressional Brain Injury Task Force (CBITF) letter being circulated by Co-chairs, Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). The letter is available here. Advocates are also invited to attent the CBITF annual Awareness Day activities scheduled for March 22. This is an excellent time to meet with your Representatives and Senators to educate them on brain injury and funding needs.

 Congress Marks Up Defense FY 2017 Spending Bill

While energy is now placed on funding for the next fiscal year, the funding for the current year ends April 28. Congress will need to enact an appropriations bill(s) or a continuing resolution to continue federal government through Sept. 30. This week, the House Appropriations Committee introduced the final version of the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Defense Appropriations bill, which will be considered on the House floor next week. The agreement provides $312 million for cancer research, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $296 million for sexual assault prevention and response. All of these funding levels represent increases above the budget request for these programs.

 Senate Confirms President’s Cabinet Nominations

Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Dr. Ben Carson to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and former Texas governor Rick Perry as the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.


TimIn Conclusion  

There appear to be major and minor rifts happening which will be felt soon. The health care we receive will be changing again. Our fund appropriated Brain Injury Programs and those of affiliated partners will suffer. The quality of care to those who are receiving and those who would have benefited from such care will reduce.

What happens next will be known when it happens as, so far, this administration has been predictably unpredictable.

We are all interested in current events whether we realize it or not. From keeping abreast via the internet or social media, watching the 30 minute news segment or other news channels, to old fashioned reading of newspapers: we all absorb our environment and, hopefully, seek successful social networks.  Therefore what happens in our town, state, nation, world and universe, is of interest.  PLEASE take a few moments to share your reaction to this post, either my commentary or the substantive portion from the BIAA, or both.  Thank you.