Health Center Federal Policy

Appropriations Update – The Waiting Game Continues

by Heather Jinkins

The House returned today from a week-long recess and is set to consider the “minibus” appropriations bill that includes the Agriculture/FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills. The measure was approved by the Senate Nov. 1. It is likely that the measure will include an extension of the current continuing resolution to carry agency funding beyond Nov. 18 into mid-December.

The Senate is set to begin debate today on a second “minibus” appropriations bill which includes the Energy and Water, Financial Services and State and Foreign Operations appropriations bills. It is anticipated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will be taken up last, likely not until mid-late December. Consideration could even slide into next year. It is still unclear if the House and Senate will reconcile their differences on the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, or if the final agreement will involve a year-long continuing resolution that contains a rescission of 1.5% to meet the requirements of this summer’s Budget Control Act (BCA).

As you may recall, the Senate FY2012 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill would fund the Health Centers program at a total programmatic funding level of $2.78 billion. The Health Centers program was funded in FY 2011 at a level of $2.58 billion, with $1.58 billion on the discretionary side and $1.0 billion available through health reform on the mandatory side(from the Community Health Center or CHC Fund). This Senate legislation keeps discretionary funding at the FY 2011 level of $1.58 billion and leaves untouched the $1.2 billion in mandatory funding available in FY 2012. So the Senate bill represents a $200 million increase for the Health Centers program over the FY 2011 funding level, coming entirely from the mandatory side. This increase is less than the health center ask of $400 million but would still provide opportunity for health center expansion.

The House draft FY 2012 Labor-HHS funding bill would provide the Health Centers program with a base discretionary funding level of $2.6 billion and would rescind $1.2 billion in FY 2012 mandatory funding provided through health reform. The overall effect of the draft House bill would be to provide level funding for the Health Centers program in FY2012. The rescission of mandatory funds would preclude any future growth for the Health Centers program in FY 2012.

Please stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for the latest on the Appropriations process!