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Brain Injury Association Legislative Update

The following is this week's leglislative update from the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA):

Former Senator Tom Daschle Withdraws His Nomination

This week former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration to become the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Some consider Daschle's withdrawal to be a blow to efforts to enact timely reform of the nation's healthcare system, as he was viewed as someone uniquely qualified to take this project on, due to his knowledge of health policy and many close relationships in the Senate.

In addition to nominating him to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama had also planned for Daschle to serve as head of a newly created White House Office of Health Reform.

Daschle's abrupt withdrawal came after he was questioned about his failure to pay all the taxes that he owed after leaving the Senate in 2005.  BIAA anticipates that there will be a new nominee announced within the next few weeks and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Appropriations Update

Although it was reported last week that the House would take up the Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) appropriations omnibus bill on Wednesday, February 4, Democratic leaders changed their mind out of concern that consideration of the bill may interfere with passing the economic stimulus package (H.R. 1).

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reported that the House will likely keep the FY09 appropriations omnibus bill on hold until after the President's Day recess.

Because the stopgap funding of the Continuing Resolution passed last fall (that extends funding in FY09 with FY08 levels) is set to expire on March 6, 2009, Congress must move quickly to pass FY09 appropriations soon.

BIAA will continue to monitor developments closely as we near the March 6th deadline.

Economic Stimulus Legislation Update

Senate moderates worked late into Thursday night looking for a compromise that would scale back the economic stimulus bill (H.R. 1) towards the $800 billion mark.  A few Democratic moderates were convinced last night that they were inching closer to a deal that would win support from a small group of Republicans and perhaps give the package enough votes to pass.

House and Senate leaders would like to begin conference negotiations on the package early next week with the goal of getting a final product to President Obama by the end of next week.

BIAA has signed on to several coalition letters related to this stimulus legislation, including a letter supporting the inclusion of public health provisions in the bill. The goal of this coalition letter, spearheaded by the Trust for America's Health, is to show a broad base of support for the inclusion of wellness and public prevention provisions in the final bill.

BIAA Urges Reduction of Lifetime Insurance Caps

Also this week, BIAA supported the Lifetime Caps Coalition by cosigning a letter to encourage the reintroduction of the Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act, legislation that would increase the minimum lifetime health insurance spending cap of those with chronic illnesses.

The coalition has reported that next Tuesday, February 10, 2009, is the tentative date for reintroduction.  BIAA will continue to monitor this legislation and offer support where needed.

SCHIP Update

On Wednesday, President Obama signed a major expansion of health insurance for children after the House cleared the bill (H.R. 2) earlier in the day.

The SCHIP bill, which BIAA supports, will provide $32.8 billion extra over the next four and a half years for the program, an amount estimated to allow coverage of an additional 4.1 million children. (Congressional Quarterly)

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