By Craig A. Kennedy, MPH
Washington DC – On Nov. 28th health center advocates from across the country came to Capitol Hill to press their case as Congress works to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Their message included a clear picture of what will happen if Congress doesn’t act to stop the across-the-board cuts (known as the “sequester”) that are set to occur on January 2nd. The law included a historical protection for health centers, but officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) decided that the protection didn’t apply to all health center funding. The resulting impact could be a $167 million funding reduction and the inability to serve 1.3 million people. In meeting after meeting, health center representatives educated Members of Congress on the impact of the sequester, resulting in many agreeing to work to restore the original intent of Congress and limit any cut to 2%. However, we remain hopeful that the sequester will be avoided altogether and no cuts to health center funding will occur. But we are working now to get the needed language to restore the historical health center protection into any budget package.
Also on the table for health center advocates was the impact the negotiations could have on Medicaid funding – and particularly on our Health Center PPS. At the end of the day it was clear that, while PPS wasn’t a direct target in the deliberations today, the final size of any potential Medicaid cuts would determine what changes were on, or off, the table. So this really is Round 1, and NACHC will be working with partners across the health care spectrum to minimize the negative impact on the communities we serve and the patients insured by Medicaid. But we will remain diligent as the budget talks continue so the importance of our PPS is clearly understood and fully protected.
In all, it was a very successful endeavor and extremely well timed. Congress has 28 days to resolve this issue, and the clock is ticking! We need to keep educating Members so that when the final decisions are made (and you know it will be blindingly quick at the end), health center funding and reimbursement are understood and supported on both sides of the aisle.
Great work to all, and thanks to everyone who came to DC. We also want to thank the thousands of people who called in during the day to amplify the message. We know the message has been delivered, now we need to make sure the final budget deal reflects it!