Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the first bipartisan Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations bill in 7 years. The legislation contained the full health center funding request for fiscal year 2017 (FY17) of $5.1 billion in funding for health centers. This is level funding compared with FY16 and composed of $1.5 billion in discretionary funding from the Appropriations Committee and $3.6 billion in funding from the mandatory Health Centers Fund, which was extended last year by H.R.2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. A copy of the Appropriations Committee press release and bill summary can be viewed here.
Additionally, the Committee directed that within the $5.1 billion available to health centers, the legislation would invest $100 million in funding for expanded mental health as well as opioid prevention and treatment services at health centers nationally. The Committee proposes providing $50 million in funding to prevent and treat opioid abuse and $50 million to expand mental health services. This funding could assist health centers in addressing these increasing public health problems in underserved communities. The NACHC press release on the Senate FY17 LHHS bill can be viewed here.
We haven’t heard anything definitive on when the House LHHS Subcommittee could begin consideration of their version of the FY17 legislation. There were rumors the House could move this week, but thus far no LHHS Subcommittee action has been scheduled. The House will only be in session for 3 more weeks until they break for the August recess and once they return in September they will only have 17 scheduled days in session until the end of the fiscal year. We will keep you posted on any movement in the House on the LHHS bill.
The passage of these funding bills in the Appropriations Committees is the first step in a lengthy appropriations process and the limited number of days in session could slow down final compromises on the appropriations bills or omnibus package until after the November elections. If that is the case, the most likely scenario is a series of short term funding extensions if Congress does not finalize the appropriations process by September 30th, dragging the process until much later in the year or even into 2017. Please stay tuned to Health Centers on the Hill for updates on the LHHS bills as information becomes available.