by Heather Jinkins
The House Appropriations Committee released last week the draft FY 2012 Labor-HHS funding bill, which includes funding for the Health Centers program. This measure, were it to become law, provides $153.4 billion in FY 2012 discretionary spending which is roughly $4 billion less than both the FY2011 enacted level as well as the level put forth in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor-HHS bill which, as you may recall, was reported out of full committee Sept. 23. This funding level is $27.5 billion below the President’s budget request and reflects the reduced overall FY 2012 discretionary funding level of $1.043 trillion pursuant to the spending caps contained in the bipartisan Budget Control Act this summer. The House Appropriations FY 2012 bill draft and press release can be found here.
The House measure would provide the Health Centers program with a base discretionary funding level of $2.6 billion and would rescind $1.2 billion in FY 2012 mandatory funding provided through health reform. The overall effect of the draft House bill would be to provide level funding for the Health Centers program in FY2012. The rescission of mandatory funds would preclude any future growth for the Health Centers program in FY 2012. As a result, over 700 communities in need throughout the country would remain on a wait list for a health center and an additional 1100 communities with existing health centers would be unable to expand service capacity to meet increased demand. The House bill also includes language to ensure that no health centers are closed. NACHC’s statement on the House bill may be found here.
As we reported in last week’s blog, the Senate FY2012 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill would fund the Health Centers program at a total programmatic funding level of $2.78 billion. The Health Centers program was funded in FY 2011 at a level of $2.58 billion, with $1.58 billion on the discretionary side and $1.0 billion available through health reform on the mandatory side (from the Community Health Center or CHC Fund). This Senate legislation keeps discretionary funding at the FY 2011 level of $1.58 billion and leaves untouched the $1.2 billion in mandatory funding available in FY 2012. So the Senate bill represents a $200 million increase for the Health Centers program over the FY 2011 funding level, coming entirely from the mandatory side. This increase is less than the health center ask of $400 million but would still provide opportunity for health center expansion.
It is unlikely that the House bill will see committee action. It appears that committee leadership wanted to publicly lay down a mark showing where they stand and outlining their priorities. In an unusual procedural tactic, a handful of House Members last week agreed by voice vote to the shorter Continuing Resolution (CR) approved by the Senate Sept. 26 to keep the government funded through Tuesday, Oct. 4. This buys some time for the full House membership to return from recess to vote on the already Senate-approved longer term CR which would keep the government funded through Nov. 18.
Please stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for the latest developments!