By: Heather Jinkins
Congress returns from its August recess this week to face a challenging agenda. When we last blogged about the FY2012 Appropriations process, we reported the House Labor – Health and Human Services (HHS) – Education Subcommittee had postponed consideration of the bill that funds the Health Centers program. Prior to adjournment for the August recess, the House Appropriations Committee had advanced 9 of its 12 bills (all but Labor-HHS-Education, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, and State-Foreign Operations). Just earlier today, we learned the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will hold its markup on Friday, September 9th. Details of the Subcommittee’s legislation have not yet been made public, but we of course will let you know as we learn more about the proposed level of funding for the Health Centers program. Senate action is expected within the next week or two.
As you’ll recall, Congress turned its attention to resolution of the debt deal and set discretionary limits in the Budget Control Act of 2011. We are hearing reports that there may not be any further movement of standalone spending bills in the full House. However, it appears the House Appropriations Committee will advance the outstanding three bills to ensure the Committee has completed its work prior to the beginning of FY2012 and that there are formal House markers for negotiations with the Senate. Given the short window of time until the October 1st beginning of FY2012, and the fact that Congress is scheduled to recess from September 23rd to October 3rd, chances are greatly reduced that any of the 12 appropriations measures will be enacted other than as part of an omnibus or Continuing Resolution (CR) measure. It is likely that Congress will have to pass at least one CR to prevent the interruption of government services.
In the coming days, we will again be asking our grassroots advocates to contact their Members on the Appropriations Committee and reiterate the importance of ensuring there is sufficient funding to maintain existing operations and activities at Health Centers and to improve access to the cost-effective and high-quality primary and preventive care we deliver. As a reminder, NACHC is requesting $1.79 billion in discretionary funding (approximately $200 million above the FY2011 discretionary level). Together with the $1.2 billion in mandatory funding in FY2012 ($200 million more than was available in FY2011), this translates to a total programmatic funding level of $2.99 billion (a total of roughly $400 million above the FY2011-enacted programmatic level). This funding will:
-Extend cost-effective primary and preventive health care to over 3 million Americans;
-Bring a Health Center to approximately 200 new communities, including those 700+ communities with pending application submissions; and
-Build on existing Health Center capacity through extended hours of operation; the hire of additional providers; and the availability of new medical, oral, behavioral, pharmacy, or vision health services. There are currently at least 1,100 applications pending at HRSA for expanded services at health centers.
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Please continue to support America’s Community Health Centers. We provide quality care to more than 20 million patients and while doing so we we actually save the taxpayers $122 BILLION a year.
Community Health Center potential patients are growing in today’s economy. The additional dollars will help grow existing cost-effective health center capacity as well as services. Today, lack of transportation and bus line services is indeed one of the reasons Heart of Ohio Family Health Centers has reached out to areas with non-exisitng community health centers. However, without the approval of additional funding for submitted applications to do just this, citizens will be dependent on costly ER visits without an emphasis on preventative care.
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