By Anne Morris, MPH
Last Wednesday, President Obama signed into law a two-week continuing resolution (CR), H.J.Res. 44, that will fund government programs through March 18, 2011 while cutting $4 billion in spending. This is the same CR described in our last blog post and means that we are clear of a government shutdown – at least for the next 2 weeks.
However, Congress and the White House (with Vice President Biden as the Administration’s chief negotiator) are now working to reach agreement on a spending bill for the remaining seven months of FY2011. On Thursday, the White House signaled interest in $6.5 billion in additional funding cuts – beyond a freeze on FY2010 funding levels and the spending cuts already included as part of H.J.Res. 44. And on Friday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) released a bill on behalf of the Senate Majority that will cut $51 billion in spending for the entirety of this fisca1 year when compared to the President’s FY2011 request – roughly half the level of funding cuts proposed by the House in H.R. 1. Of this total, $41 billion is attributable to level-funding the government for the first 5 months of this fiscal year; $4 billion is due to the cuts contained in H.J.Res. 44; and the Senate has proposed additional cuts on top of this. Of important note, the Senate bill proposes to reverse the entire cut to health centers contained in H.R. 1. Majority Leader Reid has stated the Senate will vote on both H.R. 1 and the Senate’s counter proposal to H.R. 1, and these votes will occur as early as Tuesday. The Majority Leader has also made clear he expects both proposals will fall short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote on the legislation.
It’s clear that the House and Senate still have a long way to go to reconcile their differences and craft legislation that can garner sufficient votes to pass both chambers and advance to the President for his signature. This means that health center advocates have our work ahead of us to ensure that the final package keeps health centers’ discretionary funding whole.
Please take a moment to once again weigh in with your Senators and Representative on the importance of keeping the Health Center program’s discretionary funding at the FY2010 level of $2.19 billion. As you’ll remember from last week’s post, this funding level will:
- Ensure that health center funding accounts for the growth the program experienced in the past 18 months by adding 3.7 million patients, 127 new centers, and 10,000 new jobs (note that these updated figures are a result of new ARRA reporting figures made public just over a week ago);
- Allow HRSA to make awards for the new access point (NAP), expanded services (ES), and planning grant funding opportunities the agency previously announced; and
- Extend the cost-effective, high-quality, and patient-directed health center model to patients who currently lack a routine source of primary care and would otherwise seek care in emergency departments or delay care until hospitalization is the only option.
NACHC’s website has resources and information, which we hope you’ll find helpful for your advocacy efforts. Stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for all the latest!