Last week, Congress went out on “recess” until November 15, after the election. By the time Congress comes back for a “lame-duck” session, the picture in DC will have changed significantly, regardless of the outcome of the election.
In the meantime, health center advocates have plenty to keep us busy, with a full recess and lame duck ahead. For starters, there is the continuing work on appropriations. Before recess, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running at FY2010 levels until December 3. When Congress returns, work will turn to compiling an Omnibus Appropriations bill. While both the House and Senate have so far indicated support for continuing health centers’ discretionary funding at the FY2010 levels, allowing our Health Center Fund dollars from health reform ($1 billion for FY2011) to all serve as increase, the work is far from done. There is word on the Hill that there may be pressure to lower the discretionary appropriations topline number overall, meaning an across the board cut or other reductions could be in the mix for the Omnibus. NACHC will continue to advocate for the full FY2010 appropriation to ensure that our expansion continues as envisioned in health reform.
Second, health centers remain very focused on securing a “fix” to Health Center Medicaid HIT incentive payments. See our recent post on Health Centers on the Hill for more info on that effort and the recent stand-alone bill introduced on this issue prior to the recess. NACHC staff will continue House and Senate meetings on this issue throughout the recess and there will be grassroots messages coming soon, so stay tuned.
Finally, carrying the momentum of a 417-1 vote in the House, FTCA for Volunteers (H.R. 1745) has headed over to the US Senate. NACHC staff has been and will continue meeting with numerous Senate offices on this issue during the recess in the hopes of building support for a unanimous consent request (requiring the support of every senator) to pass the bill in the coming lame-duck session. Grassroots activity is also possible on this issue and health centers should definitely raise the subject with any Senators they meet with during the recess.
Any and all of these issues could be in the mix for health centers in the lame-duck. What is important to note, however, is that the outlook for all of these issues may be influenced by what happens in the election. Members of the House and Senate for both parties will be looking at the election results to decide what their stances on the final year-end “wrap-up” packages will be, and the leadership of each chamber will be making decisions about the content of those packages based on the sense amongst the membership. On both appropriations and HIT, our health center priorities will be a part of these larger packages, and will thus be heavily impacted by the larger politics of the post-election Capitol Hill.
What will be critical in the coming month is that as events change in DC week-to-week, that health centers in the field stay tuned-in to NACHC communications and that we all work collectively on these multiple moving pieces. It is going to be an eventful Fall one way or another!