Last week, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Subcommittee on Appropriations approved their Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 spending bill by a voice vote. The full legislation will be released once the bill goes before the Full Appropriations Committee, but the summary information provided by the Subcommittee states Health Centers will receive approximately $1.49 billion in level discretionary funding. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also provides $3.6 billion in mandatory funding through the Health Center Fund for FY2015. This represents a combined total FY15 program level for health centers of approximately $5.1 billion and an increase of $1.45 billion under the Senate FY15 LHHS bill. The NACHC press release on the legislation can be seen here.
It was widely reported the legislation would move to consideration by the full Senate Appropriations Committee last week as well, but a meeting on the legislation has not yet been scheduled. A timeframe for potential consideration of the legislation by the Appropriations Committee has not been released. We will continue to monitor the progress on the legislation in the Senate and post any updates as we receive them.
On the other side of the Capitol, it is unclear when the House LHHS Subcommittee will begin drafting or even considering their FY15 LHHS legislation. It is entirely possible the House LHHS Subcommittee will follow suit with their actions in the previous years and not even consider a bill or only consider a bill in the LHHS Subcommittee.
While we are thrilled with the initial information regarding the Senate FY15 LHHS bill and we believe it puts us in a very good position regarding our FY15 funding, it is important to note we are far from moving this legislation over the finish line. We have a long way to go before the end of the year and the prospects of completing the annual appropriations bills including the FY15 LHHS bill are further complicated by the election year calendar.
As the Congressional schedule inches closer to the August recess period, the chances of a negotiated standalone FY15 LHHS bill grow slimmer. The window of opportunity to complete outstanding business gets even smaller after the August recess as Congress will recess early this year to give members time at home to prepare for the November elections. As in the past few years, it is possible Congress will move to pass a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) before they recess to ensure programs continue to be funded after the end of the current 2014 fiscal year on September 30th. It will be very important for Health Center Advocates to continue to keep the drumbeat going by continuing to weigh in with your Senators and Representatives on the importance of ensuring Health Centers have full access to the $5.1 billion in funding available for the program in FY15.