by Anne Morris, MPH
Since we reported on House passage of H.R. 1 last week, Members of Congress have been busy at work to reach agreement on a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that will continue funding for government programs while giving Representatives, Senators, and the White House more time to negotiate a seven-month spending bill. Late on Friday, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled a two-week CR that will fund government programs through March 18, 2011 while cutting $4 billion in spending. These spending cuts are comprised of over $1 billion in cuts to targeted programs that President Obama proposed in his FY2012 budget and nearly $3 billion in cuts to funds that previously had been earmarked – funding reductions considered palatable by Republicans and Democrats alike. While the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) faces an annualized funding cut of $397 million, this funding is largely made up of eliminating funding previously dedicated to earmarks. Health centers and the National Health Service Corps remain virtually whole. It is worth noting, however, that the CR would reduce funding for the Native Hawaiians program by a total of $14 million. The House is expected to vote on this short-term CR tomorrow (Tuesday), with Senate action expected shortly after that.
Assuming the House and Senate both approve a short-term CR, as seems increasingly likely, we would be clear of a government shutdown – at least for the next two weeks. That said, Congress and the White House will still need to reach resolution on a spending bill for the remainder of FY2011. We should be clear that the fact that health centers are not significantly cut in this short-term package in no way indicates that health centers will be kept whole in the final package. That effort is far from over.
Discussions amongst Representatives and Senators on this longer term bill are already underway, so it is imperative that health center advocates continue to weigh in with all Members of Congress on the importance of keeping the Health Center program’s discretionary funding at the FY2010 level of $2.19 billion. This funding level will:
- Ensure that health center funding accounts for the growth the program experienced in the past 18 months by adding 3.7 million patients, 127 new centers, and 10,000 new jobs (note that these updated figures are a result of new ARRA reporting figures just made public);
- Allow HRSA to make awards for the new access point (NAP), expanded services (ES), and planning grant funding opportunities the agency previously announced; and
- Extend the cost-effective, high-quality, and patient-directed health center model to patients who currently lack a routine source of primary care and would otherwise seek care in emergency departments or delay care until hospitalization is the only option.
Visit NACHC’s website for helpful resources and information for your advocacy efforts. And to learn more about the advocacy effort, please see this post. Stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for all the latest!