Last week, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee and the full Senate Appropriations Committee voted to level fund the health centers program for FY2010 (to learn what this means for health centers, see my previous post on this subject). As has been the case throughout the appropriations process this year, the rationale given was the substantial investment in the Recovery Act.
Indeed, in Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin’s opening statement, he addressed this issue directly, stating:
“This is an unusual year, to say the least. We’re considering this bill less than six months since Congress passed the Recovery Act, which provided more than $124 billion for programs that are under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction. . . So instead of providing even more increases to programs that did very well in the Recovery Act, this bill instead emphasizes several other important programs.”
The Chairman’s summary of the bill also indicated that Recovery Act funded programs will receive a higher priority in FY2011.
NACHC has been, and will continue, making our case regarding why temporary Recovery Act dollars are not a replacement for the continued expansion of the Health Centers program. In particular, we are stressing the situation of those centers and communities who would like to apply to receive a New Access Point and will not have that opportunity if Congress level funds the Health Centers program. We are also highlighting that even with Recovery Act dollars, existing centers are seeing a huge demand for their services that is straining existing resources. This influx of new patients does not seem likely to reverse any time soon. Meanwhile, state budgets are being slashed as is private funding, meaning many health centers are serving exponentially more patients with signifantly less resources.
If the Senate sends the Labor-HHS bill to the floor of the Senate (which is not a requirement), health centers will have our best and final opportunity to change the committee-passed bill, through a floor amendment. Stay for future information on this issue.