Last week, the House passed H.R. 933, a FY 2013 spending package that combined spending bills for Defense and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs with a six-month continuing resolution (CR) covering all other agencies. The CR would fund the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year as the government is currently operating under a CR which is set to expire March 27. The measure passed by a 267-151 vote and extends funding through September 30 at FY 2012 levels. The text of H.R. 933 can be viewed here. The House Appropriations Committee press release on passage of H.R. 933 can be viewed here.
The measure does not negate or avert the sequester. The discretionary top-line spending level is set at $1.043 trillion, as mandated by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) that was passed in January and delayed sequestration until March 1. H.R. 933 caps FY 2013 discretionary spending at roughly $984 billion – consistent with the level required by the President’s sequestration order. The sequester cuts about $59 billion from the bill’s starting level of $1.043 trillion.
Under the House-passed CR, on the discretionary side health center funding is subject to the continuation of a 0.189 percent across the board rescission which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012. When combined with the lowered spending cap, this equates to a 0.287 percent reduction in discretionary funding for Health Centers for a total of $1.561 billion down from $1.566 billion in FY12. This reduction would be taken prior to the full sequester reduction Health Centers face in FY13. HRSA has yet to pull the trigger on Health Center sequester reductions.
In a positive development, in this CR, the House did not rescind all funding related to the ACA. As a result, the Health Center Fund as allocated under the ACA for FY13 is fully available bringing total funding for CHCs in FY13 to nearly $3.1 billion- the first part of the health center request. Unfortunately, the second prong of our-request to include legislative text ensuring the full $300 million in funding available under the fund was not included. Without this text, Health Centers will be unable to access the full $300 million in ACA funds for FY13. Consequently, if the House bill were to become law, only 25 New Access Points would be awarded, there would be no base grant adjustments or service expansions and the Administration would be unable to offset the sequester reduction.
The measure now heads to the Senate where there are plans to add other stand-alone spending bills and make other additions to attempt to mitigate the effects of sequestration. It is unlikely that the Labor-HHS bill will be one of those additions, but Congress must still act on the Labor-HHS bill in some fashion prior to March 27. Congress must act quickly to avert a government shutdown as the expiration of the current CR is quickly approaching in a matter of weeks. Now is the time to be reaching out to your Senator to ask them to support for $3.1 billion in funding for Health Centers in FY13 and remind them of the importance of ensuring the entire $300 million increase is put directly into health center services immediately. Also remind your senators that this “must-spend” text will allow the Administration to offset the sequester reductions.