Advocacy Updates


AMCHP Policy Team Year in Review

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

The past year was filled with exciting MCH policy developments, including some thrills, some disappointments, and ending on the cusp of historic action on health reform. Through it all, AMCHP’s advocacy was led by our Legislative and Health Care Finance Committee, ably guided by President Phyllis Sloyer (FL) and now chaired by Dr. Jim Bryant (OH).  

To guide our work, this Committee developed both the AMCHP Legislative Agenda as well as our Principles for Health Reform. Together this provided the foundation upon which we built our advocacy for state Maternal and Child Health (MCH) programs. The following are some of the highlights of our work that supported our top priorities of funding for the Title V MCH Block Grant and assuring a focus on MCH in health reform: 

Advocacy for Increased MCH Funding 

·         AMCHP staff conducted 49 visits with staff of key members of Congressional Appropriations Committees advocating exclusively for increasing the Title V MCH Block Grant.

·         A delegation led by President Phyllis Sloyer and past president Nan Streeter met with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) on February 25, 2009, to personally present him with the AMCHP Legislative Champion for MCH Award. The meeting provided an opportunity to hear his perspectives on health reform, thank him for his leadership advancing funding for the Title V MCH Block Grant, and underscore the importance of these resources for states.               

·         On March 18, 2009, President Phyllis Sloyer also led a delegation to present Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA) with an AMCHP Legislative Champion for MCH Award. We again thanked her for support of Title V and asked for continued leadership in her role on the House Appropriations Labor HHS Subcommittee.

·         On March 18, 2009, President Phyllis Sloyer testified before the House of Representative’s Appropriations Health Subcommittee on the need for increased funding for Title V.

·         On April 2, 2009, AMCHP again worked with Sen. Dodd and Sen. Hatch (R-UT) to support successful passage of an amendment to the non-binding Congressional Budget Resolution calling for an increase in the MCH Block Grant. The amendment was adopted unanimously.

·         On May 22, 2009, AMCHP submitted written testimony to Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

·         During AMCHP’s 2009 Annual Conference we facilitated approximately 60 Capitol Hill visits for members and friends to advocate for increased MCH funding. The visits were preceded by two advocacy training conference calls, as well as an Annual Meeting legislative briefing session. 

AMCHP developed the following publications and resources to support MCH funding advocacy over the past year: 

·         AMCHP’s Title V Appropriations Fact Sheet describes the function and effectiveness of the MCH Block Grant and makes the case for increased investment.

·         An analysis of MCH funding levels in the federal budget, beginning with the President’s proposed 2010 budget detailing proposed funding for programs affecting women and children. It was distributed to all members and posted to AMCHP’s website, then updated as Congress completed appropriations action in December.

·         AMCHP State Title V Program Profiles were updated for 2009 – including a new section on Title V grantees in each state. Each snapshot provides concise information on how the MCH Block Grant works in specific states. The profiles detail the Federal funds appropriated to each state, state match, specific programs funded, numbers of people receiving services and state health needs. 

Advocating for MCH in Health Reform 

AMCHP also developed numerous resources and publications over the past year that highlight the work of state MCH programs and support our message of the need for increased resources and inclusion in health reform. These include: 

·         AMCHP’s Principles for Health Reform.

·         Creation of a Health Reform Resource Hub on our web-site to centralize MCH in health reform information.

·         Our Power of Prevention report which provides examples of effective MCH interventions supported by the Title V MCH Block Grant and makes the case for increasing prevention investments in health reform.

·         AMCHP compiled concise summaries of the key MCH provisions included in both the Senate and House health reform bills.

·         AMCHP developed and approved a position statement supporting national expansion of home visiting programs and has consistently and aggressively advocated that a new program be included in health reform legislation and placed within the Title V MCH program. AMCHP sent letters to Capitol Hill in support of home visiting in Title V.

·         AMCHP issues seven Legislative Alerts or updates in 2009, including a major legislative alert on June 17th urging members to contact Congress in support of full funding for the Title V MCH Block Grant and an October 21st alert asking members to advocate that the maternal and child home visiting provisions and the Public Health and Prevention Fund are essential elements that must be included in any final health reform package. People were asked to share feedback of who they contacted with AMCHP, and alerts were further disseminated via NACCHO’s newsletter, the APHA MCH Section Newsletter, and Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Monday Morning Memo.

·         Finally, we participated in numerous meetings and briefings convened both by the White House and Congressional health committees to share our views on health reform legislation and advocate that it priotize the needs of women, children and families, including those with special health care needs. 

Increased Communications Efforts 

Over the past year, we made deliberate efforts to expand our communications across multiple media to provide all members and partners with the most up to date and accurate information on federal policy developments affecting state MCH programs.  

·         We provided regular updates on federal budget actions, health reform progress, and other health legislation through our Advocacy webpage, the “Legislative Corner” of our bi-weekly member only online newsletter Member Briefs, and a monthly topical column entitled a “View from Washington” in this Pulse newsletter.

·         In May, AMCHP distributed a press release entitled “AMCHP’s Policy Prescriptions for a Happy and Healthy Mother’s Day.” This document, sent to the entire Congress, cited the lack of progress made in key health indicators including infant mortality and called on Congress to fully fund the block grant. We also highlighted the need to include MCH provisions in health reform.

·         AMCHP also sponsored a series of National MCH Policy Updates for all members. These calls have focused on federal funding for MCH programs, health reform, medical home expansions, and proposed home visitation program expansions.  

Despite these intensive efforts, we were disappointed that the President proposed and the Congress ultimately adopted flat funding of $662 million for Title V in FY 2010. Plans are underway now to adjust our funding advocacy strategies and adapt to a new post-health reform appropriations environment, although with projected record federal deficits its clear we face continued challenges. Now more then ever it is crucial that Members of Congress and their staff understand clearly what state MCH programs do and what your resource needs are. Stay tuned for more information of advocacy opportunities at the 2010 AMCHP Annual Conference as well as throughout the FY 2011 appropriations process. 

Finally, the outcome of health reform is still not set as of this writing. As we’ve summarized in previous publications, the provisions in the proposed bill affecting MCH are extensive, and potential health reform passage could set in motion a revolution in both health care and public health. Right now AMCHP is planning actions to shift from advocacy to supporting states in the myriad implementation opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, with final plans contingent on the outcome of the health reform debate. 

Look to AMCHP for more on health reform as the drama unfolds, and here’s looking forward to an exciting 2010!