Health Center Federal Policy, Uncategorized

Congress Prioritizes Action on FMAP Extension

by Alexandra Sange

This week will be a busy one for Congress.  Although the weeklong Memorial Day recess starts in just a few days, the House and Senate have some ambitious goals to move on before they head home Friday.  The House will look to pass legislation that is of interest to health centers and the patients they serve: the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, more often referred to as the “Extenders Act.”  The Senate will be working on a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Extenders Act would, among other things, extend the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act until June 30, 2011 (it’s set to expire December of this year).  This means that through this date, states will continue to receive a temporarily increased Medicaid matching rate, which is a 6.2 percentage point enhancement for all states with additional percentage points for states with high unemployment.  This will help states struggling to maintain the integrity of their Medicaid programs and continue to stabilize state budgets.  There are a host of other provisions in the bill: extending COBRA subsidies and unemployment another six months, a two-year fix for the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and an extension of the 2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines through 2011, for example.  You can read the text of the bill and a summary from the House Ways and Means Committee here.

Some other items to note on the “process” related to this bill:

  • First, it’s not an entirely new proposal – both chambers have been considering, and have independently passed, many of the provisions in this new Extenders Act
  • Second, the text we’re looking at was released jointly by both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.  So each chamber’s committee of jurisdiction (or lead committee) has already signed off on the package.  This will go a long way to ensuring that there isn’t a time consuming back and forth between the House and Senate as each chamber makes minor changes to the bill.
  • Third, the Extenders Act we’re looking at now is not going to be introduced as a completely new bill, but as an amendment to a bill both the House and Senate have already passed: HR 4213.  Both chambers passed slightly different versions, however, so the bill has been in conference.  By introducing this as an amendment (which will strike the underlying bill and replace it with this one), the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act can be brought up in the House first, and after passage can then go straight to the Senate floor for final passage.

The House is set to act on the Extenders bill at the beginning of the week, just as soon as members have seen the Congressional Budget Office’s final score on the package.  The Senate intends to take up the bill after consideration of the supplemental and then send it to the President.  Stay tuned to the blog for updates on the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act and the important provisions it includes.