Congressional Corner

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June 29, 2017

FY 2018 Budget
Despite not having top line numbers, the House appropriations committees are moving forward with their funding bills. Chairman Hal Rogers indicated the House non-defense spending bills would be marked up to a $511 billion topline for domestic discretionary spending, which is $7 billion lower than the current funding level.

There are rumors circulating that the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider their FY18 bill during the week of July 10. ASTHO will continue to monitor and report on these developments.

Due to a lack of agreement by the House Budget Committee on their resolution, it is expected that the topline numbers for non-defense discretionary programs will be adjusted at a later date potentially via a bi-partisan deal to avoid the sequester is needed to enact funding at these levels, however. Democrats are warning that they will not support spending increases on defense programs without equal increases to nondefense programs.

There are expectations that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open after the start of FY18.

Agriculture Bill Release
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released the FY18 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The bill includes:

  • WIC: $6.15 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is $200 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and the same as the President’s request. Because of robust prior-year funding and declining enrollments in the program, WIC has large carryover balances left over from previous years. Therefore, to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, the bill rescinds $600 million in these unobligated balances, which will have no impact on participation in the program.
  • Child nutrition programs: The bill provides for $24.28 billion in required mandatory funding – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for child nutrition programs. This is $1.5 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
    •  To note: The bill continues policy provisions to “stop onerous regulations on local schools, which cost them money and resources in an already tight budget climate.” Some of these provisions include:
      • A provision that allows schools demonstrating a financial hardship to seek an exemption from the whole grain nutrition standards;
      • A provision that prevents further implementation of sodium reduction standards; and
      • A provision that provides schools with flexibility in serving low-fat flavored milk.
  • SNAP: Finally, the bill provides for $73.6 billion in required mandatory spending – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for SNAP. This is $4.87 billion below last year’s level and $2.6 million below the President’s budget request, reflecting declining enrollment and a decrease in food costs.

Affordable Care Act Repeal and Replacement
On Tuesday, the Senate delayed their original goal of voting on the Better Care Reconciliation Act l to overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Due to ongoing negotiations, the Senate plans to release a third version of the bill by this Friday, June 30. At this time, it is unclear if they will meet this deadline. According to media reports, the new version of the bill may include$45 billion to support substance use disorder treatment and recovery support and establish health savings accounts that would allow people to pay for insurance premiums with pre-tax money.

As a reminder, in its current form, this legislation eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) in FY18, 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. 

ASTHO released a statement expressing our disappointment about the repeal of the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Specifically stating, “We are deeply disappointed the Senate discussion draft legislation includes a repeal of the Prevention and Public Health Fund in FY18. Repealing this fund, coupled with sequestration this year, would result in more than 12 percent cut to CDC programs in just a few months and this will affect other federal programs that keep our nation healthy.”

ASTHO signed onto a letter with over 580 signees representing a range of diverse organizations to support the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Special Enrollment Verification Notices
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offered documentation on the current process for verifying special enrollment in health insurance plans. Special enrollment covers select changes to coverage due to special circumstances. The announcement states that this is “a pilot program starting in 2017 that will test the impact of pre-enrollment verification of special enrollment period eligibility through HealthCare.gov on compliance, enrollment, continuity of coverage, the risk pool, and other outcomes.”

HHS Announces Competitive Funding for Health Centers for Mental Health and SUD
HHS announced the availability of $195 million in a new, competitive funding opportunity for health centers to expand access to mental health and substance abuse services, including the treatment, prevention and awareness of opioid abuse in all states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.