by Abby Pinkele
Last week, the House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee passed the Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) LHHS bill by a vote of 8-6.
Under the legislation, health centers would receive approximately $2.8 billion in total funding for FY13. Overall, this is level funding compared with FY12. Unfortunately, the bill also rescinds $300 million in funding available for health centers under the Affordable Care Act for FY13 and as a consequence, if the bill were to become law, existing health centers would be unable to expand services, all new site applications would remain on the waitlist in FY13, and no existing health centers would receive base grant adjustments.
By comparison, the Senate Appropriations Committee FY13 LHHS spending bill, which was approved by the Committee in June, includes a combined total FY13 program level for health centers of approximately $3.1 billion- a $300 million increase. In addition, the legislation includes critical language ensuring the full $300 million increase will be used immediately and fully expended by September 30, 2013. The Senate legislation also allocates $48 million for current health center base grant adjustments- a 1.7 percent funding increase for existing health centers. Overall, if the Senate bill were enacted into law, it would allow for the expansion of care to 2.5 million new patients both through the opening of new health centers in communities that currently lack primary care and through expanded services at existing health centers.
Exact timing of further consideration of these bills by the full House and Senate is unclear at this time. Health Center advocates should use Health Center Week as an opportunity to weigh-in with Members of the House and Senate in support of the Senate version of the FY13 LHHS appropriations health center provisions while both chambers prepare to reconcile the differences between the two versions of the legislation. NACHC will provide additional materials for Health Center advocates to use during Health Center Week. NACHC will also be working to ensure the Senate version of the FY13 LHHS spending bill pertaining to health centers is included in the final version of the legislation. Advocates should also be on the lookout for targeted action alerts to the House and Senate on this issue in the months to come. Your action on these alerts will be critical to ensuring the proposed Senate funding increase is retained in the final bill.