Congressional Corner

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 May 4, 2017

AHCA announcement

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by a 217-213 vote. AHCA eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), which is used by every state and territory to support vital public health programs that promote health, prevent disease, and allow for rapid response to emerging public health threats. Any remaining PPHF funds will be rescinded at the end of fiscal year 2018.

The bill contains language for states to apply for waivers, allowing insurance companies to (1) charge more for older people, (2) drop certain essential health benefits, and (3) charge people different amounts based on health status. Last-minute negotiations on funding of high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions helped push the bill across the finish line.

The bill also includes restructuring of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion eliminating the enhanced federal matching funds for expansion enrollees as of Jan. 1, 2020, except for those enrolled as of Dec. 31, 2019, who do not have a break in eligibility of more than one month. Also included are changes in federal payment to states in the form of per capita caps (a capped amount is paid per enrollee).

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has not yet scored the bill.

The bill now moves on to the Senate, where it is unclear as to how much of the current bill will remain. Full text of the bill and amendments can be found here.

ASTHO will continue to pursue strategies to protect the PPHF and will look to its members and partner organizations to keep this crucial funding available to states and territories.

Congress Passes, White House Expected to Sign Omnibus

Today, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that will fund the government through Sept. 30. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on the omnibus, noting that the President will sign the bill if presented with it.

The bill provides $1.163 trillion in base and Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terror funding. These levels meet the caps provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

View additional details and a summary of the bill. ASTHO will analyze the bill’s impact on public health programs as soon as possible. In the meantime, ASTHO developed a chart with further details on programs and agencies that ASTHO tracks. Rep. Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, issued a statement on the funding bill.

Congress is now expected to begin work on the FY18 appropriations bill. The Budget Blueprint for FY18 included a $15.1 billion (17.9%) decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level, proposed a reorganization of key preparedness and prevention programs at CDC, and called for the elimination of $403 million in HRSA health professions and nursing training programs.

More information is available here. In March, ASTHO released a statement on the budget. The full budget, which is expected to include a line-by-line breakdown of all funding levels, is expected around the middle of May.

Stay tuned for opportunities to engage with your members of Congress and their staff to protect critical public health funding for states and territories.

Senate HELP Committee Moves Public Health Legislation Forward and Supports FDA Commissioner

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee moved four public health bills forward for consideration by the full Senate:

  • Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act – This bill will support state-based efforts to screen newborns, infants, and young children for hearing loss, as well as ensure proper follow-up care, including diagnosis and early intervention.
  • National Clinical Care Commission Act – This bill will create a commission of leading experts to study complex metabolic or autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes. The commission will recommend improvements to federal programs that work to help prevent these diseases and educate patients on their condition.
  • Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017 – This bill ensures that victims of a life-threatening emergency, such as a burn victim or a child experiencing a seizure, will continue to have access to time-sensitive and life-saving treatments under the supervision of a physician.
  • Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act – This bill will improve public health preparedness capabilities to help combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases that threaten public health by reauthorizing and strengthening key programs that support state and local mosquito surveillance and control efforts and response activities to protect against infectious diseases, such as the Zika virus.

The Senate HELP committee also supported the nomination of Scott Gottlieb as commissioner of the FDA, and sent the consideration to the Senate Floor late last week.

Menu Labeling Compliance Date Delayed

FDA extended the compliance date for the final rule requiring restaurants and retail food establishments to disclose certain nutrition information for standard menu items. The original date for compliance was May 5. The deadline has been extended to May 7, 2018.