Health Center Federal Policy, Uncategorized

Ask Your Representatives to Level Fund the Health Centers Program in the FY2011 CR

by Krystal E. Knight, MPH

As we discussed in our last appropriations post, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) plans to bring a FY2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) to the House floor next week – the week of February 14th. This CR will fund government agencies and programs for the remaining 7 months of FY2011. It is our understanding that the CR will fund non-security discretionary programs at a level nearly $43 billion below the funding level enacted in FY2010, with a $6.6 billion reduction to programs funded through the Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Subcommittee, which includes the Health Centers program.  This reduction would possibly increase to $12.3 billion to account for a shortfall in funding for the Pell Grant Program.

With the vote on the CR scheduled for sometime next week, Members of the House Appropriations Committee and their staffs are working on the bill. We expect that a draft of this bill will be made public sometime this week.  NACHC has held several meetings with Appropriators and their Staffs, and while so far we’ve received no indication that the Health Centers program is a specific target for funding reductions, it is clear that Appropriators will be making very difficult decisions as they aim to reach their budget level. As a result, every single program is at risk for severe cuts.

The full House of Representatives will consider the CR under an “open rule” or process by which any Member can offer amendments or changes to the bill, some of which we expect will aim to further reduce the total funding level. The House will vote on amendments offered during the debate and vote on final passage of the CR. If any of the amendments offered through the “open rule” process stand to affect health centers, NACHC may ask health center advocates to contact their Members and urge them to vote against those amendments.While we anticipate the House will complete action on the CR next week, the Senate also must act and will likely prepare its own CR for consideration, forcing a “Conference,” or period of negotiation between the two chambers. During the Conference process, NACHC expects the White House to be involved as well as they work to promote the Administration’s priorities.

It is imperative that we continue to advocate for the level funding of the Health Centers program at $2.19 billion for the remainder of FY2011. Level funding will ensure that health centers can continue to provide high-quality, cost-effective primary care to the 20 million Americans they currently serve, as well as provide that same high-quality care to 20 million new patients over the next 5 years. Every Member of House, and especially those who serve on the Appropriations Committee or in House Leadership, needs to hear immediately from health center advocates what a cut in funding will mean for YOUR Health Center and your community. Please contact your Representative TODAY and ask him or her to level fund the Health Centers program in FY2011. To access NACHC’s ACTION ALERT on this issue, please click here.