Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee made the official opening bid in this year’s appropriations process when it approved the FY2012 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill. The legislation funds the Health Centers program at a total programmatic funding level of $2.78 billion. This legislation, were it to become law, provides enough funding to maintain current levels of federal grant support and all existing operations at Health Centers, and to extend access to care to over 1.5 million additional people in need. As you know, the Health Centers program was funded in FY 2011 at a level of $2.58 billion, with $1.58 billion on the discretionary side and $1.0 billion available through health reform on the mandatory side (from the Community Health Center or CHC Fund). This legislation keeps discretionary funding at the FY 2011 level of $1.58 billion and leaves untouched the $1.2 billion in mandatory funding available in FY 2012. So the Senate bill represents a $200 million increase for the Health Centers program over the FY 2011 funding level, coming entirely from the mandatory side. While this is short of NACHC’s ask for a $400 million increase (including a $200 million discretionary funding increase), in this climate and in this bill where many other widely supported programs sustained cuts, this is a positive bill that continues support for health center expansion. NACHC’s press release on the Senate bill may be found here.
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s report, new funding would be available under the bill for base grant adjustments for all existing CHCs and the expansion of the network of health centers. The Senate Appropriations FY 2012 bill and report are available here. As we’ve previously reported, the House has yet to put forward its version of the Labor-HHS bill and the timeline for that action is undetermined at this juncture.
With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, none of the 12 appropriations or spending bills for FY2012 have been enacted into law. There is no conceivable way that all 12 bills can be passed and signed into law October 1. In light of that, a second attempt at a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep government programs funded through Nov. 18 passed the House last week mostly along party lines, 219-203. However, the Senate rejected the House measure Friday morning with a vote of 59-36. Party leaders were tasked with resolving the impasse which was reportedly due to discord surrounding disaster relief funding for FEMA. Republicans wanted those funds to be partially offset by cuts to programs considered to be Democratic priorities. The House recessed for Rosh Hashanah while the Senate continued to deliberate on an alternative CR put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The Senate approved a short term budget deal Monday night to keep the government funded through Nov. 18. The measure, were it to become law, would provide FEMA with $2.65 billion to respond to natural disasters and avoid a government shutdown by week’s end. The deal also includes a CR to fund the government through Oct. 4, allowing the House to approve upon return from recess the budget bill that lasts through Nov. 18.
The CR will fund programs at $1.043 trillion, a reduced level from FY2011, pursuant to the spending caps contained in the bipartisan Budget Control Act this summer. This will mean a pro-rata reduction to all programs of $7 billion or 1.503 percent.
Please stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for the latest!