Health Center Federal Policy, Uncategorized

This Week in Washington: The Waiting Game

by Alex Sange, MPP

Although there is a fair amount reportedly going on behind the scenes here in the Beltway, many of us are also playing the Waiting Game this week – waiting for the release of the President’s FY2013 budget, and waiting for any possible clues on how the so-called Payroll Tax-SGR-Extenders Package is going to shake out.  While President Obama was originally scheduled to release his budget today (February 6th) for the fiscal year beginning October 1, the Administration pushed their deadline back one week and are planning on sending the FY2013 budget to Congress next Monday – on February 13th.  With a CBO-projected federal deficit of over $1 trillion by the end of 2012 and planned across-the-board cuts starting in January 2013 to contend with, the President has quite a task ahead of him as he sets his priorities for the coming fiscal year.  And for better or for worse, with little mention of health care in his “State of the Union” speech two weeks ago, the President has not tipped his hand on how his budget will treat health care programs including Community Health Centers.  Once the Administration’s request is released, Congress will begin their work building their own budget and the FY2013 spending and appropriations debate will begin in earnest.

On a parallel track, a group of conferees from the House and Senate continue to try and hammer out a bipartisan agreement on an Extenders Package that will prevent an expiration of the payroll tax cut and doctors from taking a cut in their Medicare reimbursement rates, among other things.  Back in December, Congress passed a short-term Payroll Tax Cut-SGR (Medicare physician payment) fix which is set to expire at the end of February.  This year, a small bipartisan group of leadership-appointed conferees has been meeting to come up with a longer term fix for the Medicare physician payment formula as well as offsets for the Medicare payment fix and the Payroll Tax cut extension amongst many other provisions. With about a month to go before the current extensions expire, a bipartisan solution is not readily apparent, but conferees are reportedly scheduled to meet at least three times this week.

To predict how the President’s FY2013 budget and the extenders discussions will play out would be reading tea-leaves so for now we’ll watch and wait (and blog), and continue our work health centers on the hill.  Stay tuned to the blog for more detail on the President’s FY2013 proposal as it’s released and our outlook for the upcoming appropriations process.