After a weeklong Memorial Day Recess the House and Senate are back in session this Monday, with a packed agenda for the week. One of the bills for health centers to watch will be the Extenders Bill (HR 4213), which we’ve blogged about a few times – for its’ inclusion of a Medicare preventive services provision that impacts FQHCs and for its initial inclusion, and subsequent exclusion, of a six-month extension of the enhanced FMAP Medicaid rate for states.
Since the FMAP extension was pulled just before passage, national advocacy groups (including NACHC – an ad we’ve participated on is the graphic on this blogpost) have weighed in through ads in Hill publications and coalition letters to urge leaders to pass the FMAP extension as soon as possible. Advocates are also pushing for the passage of an extension of COBRA benefits, which was also stripped from the package to keep the cost of the bill down. There is reciprocal pressure from fiscal conservatives to trim the unpaid cost of the bill further (it’s at about $54 billion now) to keep the legislation from increasing the deficit. These issues and others will mean there will likely be amendments to the bill on the Senate floor this week and heated debate, and it’s possible the FMAP extension will be added back into the final legislation. If any amendments are accepted in the Senate, the bill will have to go back to the House for final passage. Speaker Pelosi has committed to working with Leader Reid on getting a final bill that both chambers can pass.
Senator Majority Leader Reid plans to start debate on the bill this week – potentially as early as this evening or Tuesday, but it’s likely that most of the debate and any votes on amendments will take place Wednesday to ensure that most Senators are present (Tuesday’s elections will keep some Senators out of town until Wednesday). Keep your eyes on the Senate this week, and on this blog for updates on these important provisions in the Extenders Bill as it continues to move through Congress.