View From Washington

By Brent Ewig, MHS
Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP 

Greetings once again from our nation’s capital. As this issue goes to print (can you still say that when it’s electronic?) the Senate Finance Committee just finished amending their health reform legislation. They are the last of five Congressional committees charged with drafting initial bills.  

The real hard work begins now to meld the two Senate Committee bills and three House Committee bills into a final piece of legislation that can attract enough votes to pass each body and be signed by the President. As I’ve written here before, predictions are hard, but at this point it appears there is building momentum to complete a health reform bill this year. 

The most direct highlight for State Title V programs in the Finance Committee bill as previously reported is a proposal to add a new section to Title V to authorize $1.5 billion over five years for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visitation program. As a reminder, all of AMCHP’s resources on this proposal, including our letter of support to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the details of the proposal, and a side by side comparison of the House and Senate proposals (courtesy of Kay Johnson) are available here 

The House health reform bills also include strong home visiting provisions, although they are proposing to authorize the program in Title IV (child welfare) of the Social Security Act. Obviously, AMCHP strongly prefers the Senate approach not only because it builds on the success of Title V but also because the Senate authorizes twice as much funding and does not require any state match. We will be working hard to assure that the Senate’s home visiting proposal is included in any final health reform legislation.  

Another key priority we are advocating is the inclusion of the proposed $10 billion Public Health Prevention and Investment Fund in the final bill. This provision is absolutely essential to assure that adequate resources will be available in the future to support MCH and public health programs, as well as the state and local public health agencies that have been so badly eroded over the past decade. 

Because of all the undecided and still moving parts – such as inclusion of public option, level of subsidies, treatment of CHIP program, benefit and cost-sharing protections, status of the Public Health Prevention and Investment Fund, etc. – it is still too early to say exactly what the final product could mean for MCH. Elements of many of the committee bills have demonstrated at least some commitment to AMCHP’s principles to 1) cover everyone, 2) assure that the benefits package is adequate to meet the needs of women, children, and children with special health care needs, and 3) make investments in prevention and public health. For the latest coverage of what’s in and what’s out, and what it might mean for MCH, be sure to regularly check the AMCHP Health Reform Resource Hub.