by Heather Jinkins
While we are only one month into the 113th Congress, the FY2013 appropriations process remains unfinished. As you will recall, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees offered FY2013 appropriations bills and those bills died with the close of the 112th Congress. As a result, the federal government is currently funded under a six month continuing resolution (CR) which is set to expire March 27th, 2013. With this deadline looming, the new Congress must start the FY2013 appropriations process again, just as the FY2014 process is expected to commence in a month’s time with the introduction of the President’s and Congress’ FY2014 Budget proposals.
Under current law, there is $1.6 billion in discretionary funding available for the Health Centers program this year with another $1.5 billion available though the mandatory Health Center Fund — totaling $3.1 billion for FY2013. Last year, the House Labor-HHS FY2013 Appropriations bill proposed a total funding level of $2.8 billion – level funding compared with FY2012. To accomplish this, the House measure rescinded $300 million available to health centers through the Health Center Fund and as a result, it would be impossible for health centers to expand services at existing health centers or extend access to care in new communities. The House bill would also not enable any health center to receive a base grant adjustment to recognize the increased cost of serving existing patients.
By contrast, last year’s Senate Labor-HHS FY2013 Appropriations measure allocated a total of $3.1 billion in funding for health centers and included language requiring that the full $300 million increase be used by September 30th, 2013 (the President recommended the same funding level but NOT spending it all this year). The Senate measure also allocated $48 million for base grant adjustments – a 1.7 percent increase for existing health centers. The program funding outlined in the Senate measure would make it possible for health centers to maintain current operations while also extending care to 2.5 million new patients – expanding the vital work of the Health Centers Program while also preserving the stability and viability of existing centers.
With the clock ticking on the CR, Congress must act soon on FY2013 appropriations bills to avert a government shutdown. NACHC has strongly supported the Senate legislation and Health Center Advocates can expect continued calls to action in the weeks ahead as this will be a critical time in securing health center funding for FY2013.