Any way you slice it, dice it, pundit-ize it, etc, 2010 will go down as a year in the history books for the health centers movement. In 2010, we witnessed the enactment of a comprehensive health care reform law that places the expansion of the health center model of care at its core. Health centers are now on a path to double the number of patients served to 40 million by the year 2015- a key step in health centers’ longstanding Access for All America plan which aims to bring access to a primary health care home to the 60 million Americans who lack one today. This continuation and acceleration of the bipartisan health center expansion is a testament to decades of proven results which demonstrate that health centers provide high quality and cost-effective care. It is also a confirmation of the power of the health center grassroots when health centers join together around a clear goal and are willing to vocally and consistently push for that goal together.
Looking back at all that has happened in this incredibly active year it is easy to forget all the twists and turns that brought us to this point. To put it in perspective, when the year 2010 began, the Senate had just passed their version of the health reform law with Democrats utilizing their 60-member strong majority to pass the bill on a party-line vote, a majority virtually everyone expected them to keep at that point. The Senate bill touched on all three of the health center objectives for reform: payment, participation, and growth. The bill was headed to conference with the House version. Less than three weeks later, however, the election of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) changed the health reform vote equation, putting the outlook for enactment of comprehensive reform in doubt. NACHC’s Policy and Issues Forum (P&I) came right during this period of uncertainty, and our grassroots advocates took to the Hill with a simple message for members of both parties to work together to enact a solution to our nation’s health access challenges and to include health centers as a part of that solution.
In the month that followed the P&I, a new strategy for enacting a reform law emerged: passing the Senate version of the reform bill and in addition, a “budget reconciliation” bill that would make tweaks to the Senate-passed bill but would carry procedural protection from a filibuster, meaning it would only require a majority to pass. In a series of dramatic and partisan votes, the House passed the Senate reform bill and then both the Senate and House passed the Reconciliation Act. Together, these bills constituted the health reform package and became known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
By now, most health center advocates know well what the health center provisions are in the ACA, but in the posts that follow, the NACHC Federal Affairs staff will provided a recap of the payment, participation, and growth provisions from ACA and beyond, as well as a review of the Medicaid expansions and workforce provisions. Virtually every major component of health centers’ health reform agenda was addressed in ACA in some way. Without a doubt, ACA moves health centers significantly closer to our goal of providing access to care for all Americans who need it.
As we transitioned from health reform and into the end of 2010, things didn’t slow down for health centers on the Hill. First there was the historic “wave” election that saw the House majority flip from Democratic to Republican and the Senate Democratic majority shrink. That means new House Leaders, Committee Chairs, Subcommittee Chairs, and many other shifting roles. All of which will require significant education and outreach here in DC, as well as a major grassroots effort at home. Health center advocates were also very active on the Hill this lame duck session, as the following posts which touch on Medicaid HIT Incentives, Appropriations, and FTCA will recount.
This coming year, as always, will hold its challenges on the Hill. But the health center movement should take confidence in looking back at how far we’ve come this year thanks to a shared commitment to improving the lives of the patients and communities that health centers serve. As we move forward to a New Year and a new Congress, we here at Health Centers on the Hill want to thank the thousands of health center advocates across the country for all you do each and every day. Your dedication to making this country healthier and its communities stronger, and a proven track record of turning that vision into a reality makes our job here in Washington so much easier, and in 2010, much more successful!