After a long hot summer, the nation’s capital is entering election mode full speed ahead, with most talk in the hallways of the Capitol focused on the upcoming November elections. Even with that being the case, Congress is coming back into town for one more pre-election, month-long legislative session starting next week. Post-election, there will be a “lame-duck” session to wrap up all the outstanding business for the year. NACHC is keeping busy on the Hill with several important issues, and Health Center Advocates should be aware we may be calling on you on a number of fronts this fall. As health centers across the country get ready to head to Dallas this week for NACHC’s 2010 Community Health Institute and EXPO, we at Health Centers on the Hill wanted to give you a brief overview of just a few of the legislative issues that might be in play for health centers this fall.
Regular readers will recall that before the August recess, the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee and full Senate Appropriations Committee had both voted to provide FY2011 discretionary funding to the Health Centers program that equals the FY2010 level. This, combined with our Health Center Fund allocation from the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as the “health reform law”), would give the Health Centers program a $1 billion increase for FY2011. This level discretionary funding and $1 billion increase overall was consistent with NACHC’s revised request post-health reform.
At this point, there is little doubt that the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill will end up as part of a year-end “omnibus” appropriations bill. Our work on the advocacy side is not done, however. There is talk in the Senate of reducing the overall discretionary funding levels for FY2011 beyond where they were pegged at the beginning of the appropriations process. If that happens, any or all of the appropriations bills could see reductions to their allocations, meaning programs could be cut beyond where they were in the committee-passed bills. NACHC is ready to go with grassroots advocacy alerts if this happens, so stay tuned, the appropriations process is far from over.
HIT Incentives Fix
As many readers are also aware, NACHC has been working for several months on an “HIT Medicaid Incentives fix.” (See background on the issue and our ask here.) In general, this fix is aimed at making sure that the Medicaid HIT Incentives for eligible health professionals practicing predominantly at health centers, which were created under ARRA, go directly to the health center instead of to the individual professional. Without this fix, state Medicaid agencies will have to establish a system to make the payments to the professionals, and then the professionals will have to work with the health center to create a contractual arrangement for signing the payments over to the health center.
NACHC staff has been doing education and advocacy on this issue on the Hill for months, but now health center advocates should be ready to be called to action on this issue as soon as this month. While the path forward for this “fix” would most likely be as a small rider on a much larger bill later in the fall, we will need to continue to build awareness and support for this fix now.
FTCA for Volunteers
Health Centers on the Hill readers are aware that there was some real activity around this longstanding issue prior to the August recess. (Read old blog posts here and here for background on the issue and the action). As we’ve written, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted an FTCA for Volunteers bill out unanimously. NACHC staff has been working over the August recess to start to do education on the issue in the Senate, in the hopes that the full House may be approving the stand-alone bill this fall and sending it to the Senate for their consideration.
Health Center Advocates can expect to see some call for grassroots action on this issue in the coming months as we work to support the bill’s passage through the House and to do education in the Senate.
Overall, Health Center Advocates should be on alert that while the story of the upcoming election is ruling the news coming out of Washington, lots of work is still going on behind the scenes and we may be calling on the health center grassroots on any one of these issues in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!