By: NACHC Federal Affairs Staff
The House of Representatives is slated to vote this week on the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act, legislation that would avert the Health Center funding cliff and extend several other programs important to health centers: the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF), which provides 70% of section 330 grant dollars; along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program, and other related programs.
Introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act combines two bills passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in October: the CHAMPION Act and the HEALTHY KIDS Act, which previously appeared on the NACHC blog. Those bills independently extended critical funding for CHIP and the CHCF for two years, and provided two years of funding for important workforce programs including the NHSC and THCGME.
The CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act:
- Extends current health center funding ($3.6 billion) for two years (FY18 – FY19);
- Extends current NHSC funding ($310 million) for two years (FY18 – FY19) ;
- Boosts THCGME funding to $126.5 million for two years (FY18 – FY19);
- Extends CHIP funding for five years (FY18 – FY22);
- Delays Medicaid cuts for Disproportionate Share Hospitals for two years (FY18 – FY19);
- Increases Medicaid growth in Puerto Rico ($1 billion) and the U.S. Virgin Islands ($30 million) for two years (FY18 ‒ FY19);
- Provides two years of funding for sex avoidance education programs (FY18 – FY19);
- Provides $25 million in FY18 for health centers to partake in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program, which conducts disease treatment and research as a part of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI); and
- Extends current funding ($150 million) for Type 1 Diabetes research at the NIH for two years (2018 – 2019).
In addition to extending funding for the health care priorities listed above, the bill also updates section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, the authorizing statute for the Health Centers Program. NACHC is supportive of these changes, and worked closely with legislators on Capitol Hill and HRSA to ensure that changes to section 330 proposed in the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act will continue to allow health centers to deliver the highest quality care possible. The changes largely are focused on updating and clarifying HRSA’s ability to award grants to health centers for quality improvement, expanded services and new access points.
While the extensions of funding contained in the bill all have bipartisan support and are uncontroversial, disagreement continues over how those extensions are paid for in the House legislation. The CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act reduced future funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which currently accounts for roughly 12% of the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also supports a number of health promotion grants around the country. The bill also shortens the “grace period” during which Qualified Health Plan enrollees can stay enrolled without paying premiums from three months, under current law, to one month. Finally, the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act tweaks Medicaid third-party liability rules, amends rules limiting Medicaid payments to lottery winners, and increases Medicare cost-sharing (to 100% of premium costs) for the wealthiest Medicare beneficiaries – those with incomes above $500,000/year.
When the bill was released on Tuesday, NACHC issued this statement thanking legislators on all sides and emphasizing the urgency of getting to a final, bipartisan package that can pass both House and Senate and be passed into law as soon as possible.
While the Senate has not yet brought a bill to the floor for a vote, we know that significant bipartisan support exists in that chamber for health centers: in September, 70 Senators signed a letter calling for “swift resolution” of the funding cliff, and bipartisan Senators from across the political spectrum have signed onto the CHIME Act, which calls for a longer-term extension of health center and NHSC funding. This bipartisan support is critical, as Senate procedure dictates that any bill that passes the Senate must garner at least 60 votes. NACHC continues to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and in both chambers of Congress, to make that happen as soon as possible.
Your voice and advocacy are extremely important as Congress debates funding extensions for CHCF, THCGME, NHSC, CHIP, and other critical health programs. Stay tuned to NACHC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for up-to-the-minute news about a cliff fix, and for specific action steps you can take moving ahead.