Health Center Federal Policy

It’s that Time Again; Budget and Appropriations are Back

by Krystal E. Knight

It is budget season here in DC, and Capitol Hill has seen a flurry of budget-related activity, namely the release of the Chairman’s Mark for the FY 2011 Senate Budget Resolution last Wednesday. Drafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), the Chairman’s Mark is a “budget blueprint”—a non-binding set of guidelines. In his Chairman’s Mark, Senator Conrad calls for spending cuts that would bring the Committee mark in at $4 billion below the President’s Budget. The Chairman’s Mark offers $471 billion more in deficit reduction than the President’s request, and it also proposes a 3-year freeze on non-security, discretionary spending. On Thursday, April 22, 2010, the Senate Budget Committee voted to approve the FY 2011 budget resolution 12 to 10.

The House of Representatives has been engaged in budget-related activity as well. The House Labor-HHS-Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations held a FY 2011 budget request hearing with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) last Wednesday where she testified on the Administration’s request. In her testimony, the Secretary noted that the recently enacted health reform law calls for health centers to receive $1 billion in FY2011 to expand their service capacity and “increase the comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services provided” by health centers.

Even post health reform, the annual budget and appropriations process is still enormously important to health centers. Although the Health Centers program stands to receive $11 billion in guaranteed funding due to the health reform law, the funding available to health centers in the Community Health Center Fund is in addition to our discretionary appropriations. In order for the full impact of the trust fund to be realized, the Health Centers program needs to at least maintain funding at the FY 2010 level ($2.19 billion).

This means that just like in years past, NACHC will need to make the case for our funding to members of Appropriations committees in the House and Senate. Stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead as the budget and appropriations process continues.