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Federal Legislative Update

The following brain injury legislative update was prepared by the Brain Injury Association of America:

ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE APPROVED BY HOUSE

This week the House passed their $819 billion economic stimulus bill, setting the stage for Senate action next week.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi portrayed her chamber's vote as swift and bold action that "honors the promises our new president made from the steps of the Capitol" during his Jan. 20 inauguration. (Congressional Quarterly)

As reported last week, the legislation would provide an additional $87 billion of critical Medicaid funding to states, increasing through the end of FY 2010 the share of Medicaid costs the Federal government reimburses all states by 4.8 percent.  This funding is intended to prevent cuts to health benefits in state Medicaid programs at a time when state revenues are declining.  BIAA continues to strongly support this increase in federal support for Medicaid, to prevent states from having to cut back on vital Medicaid services that many individuals with brain injury depend on.

The bill would also extend the moratorium, (which BIAA has been strongly supportive of), on harmful Medicaid and Medicare regulations through October 1, 2009.  The legislation also adds a moratorium on the Medicaid Outpatient Rule.

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE

Earlier this week, Minority leader Steny Hoyer announced that the House will take up the Fiscal Year 2009 omnibus appropriations bill next week.  We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep everyone informed as to the content of the bill next week.

As many of you remember, BIAA sent out a Legislative Action Alert in late December, when the House and Senate were conferencing critical sections of this omnibus bill,  urging everyone to call their Representatives in Congress to increase TBI funding.  Thank you to everyone who took action on this important issue!

GAO REPORT EXAMINES TBI CLAIMS PROGRAM FOR INJURED SERVICEMEMBERS

This week, GAO issued an investigative report regarding the traumatic injury insurance benefit program (TSGLI).  The program was created in 2005, to be administered by Veterans Affairs in collaboration with the Department of Defense, to help ease financial burdens on members of the armed services that sustain a brain injury or other serious injuries.

During their investigation, GAO sought out the advice of BIAA in terms of the difficulty in identifying mild brain injury and the variance in the length of time that symptoms present post injury.  BIAA also counseled GAO on the difficulty in getting objective data about the severity of brain injuries from a functional standpoint.

In conclusion of their investigation, GAO recommended that both DOD and VA   implement a quality assurance review process to help ensure that decisions are accurate and consistent within and across the services and  take steps to ensure the data required to assess the approval rate for traumatic brain injury and timeliness of the claims process are reliable and comprehensive.

BIAA PARTICIPATES IN HEALTH REFORM COALITION MEETING

On Monday, January 26, 2009, BIAA once again participated in a coalition of groups spearheaded by the American Academy of Neurology to discuss possibilities and ideas for shaping healthcare reform in the 111th Congress.  The group decided on the common message of improving access to care going forward into this debate.

BIAA will continue to work with the members of the coalition to forward our legislative agenda through collaboration in the new Congress.

BIAA APPLAUDS SENATE REAUTHORIZATION OF SCHIP

On Thursday, January 29, 2009, the Senate passed a $32.8 billion bill to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, sending the bill to the House, which plans to quickly clear it for President Obama, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Earlier this week, BIAA signed on to a coalition letter urging the Senate to successfully complete this reauthorization and expansion of this program, which will help provide health insurance low-income children in working families whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase private health insurance.

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