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Brent Ewig

Out of Sync

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

It should not come as a surprise to even the casual observer that the Congressional process has become rather dysfunctional lately. With the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year rapidly approaching we still have not seen a proposed funding level for the Title V MCH Block Grant or any other critical health program with the exception of WIC, which the House voted to cut by $800 million. The recent debt limit deficit reduction agreement set a top line number of required cuts, but didn’t identify a single specific program to be reduced. The bottom line is that we are beginning September at a place that the annual federal budgeting process is usually at in spring.  

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act continues to wind its litigious path through the U.S. Court system, with Circuit Court of Appeals recently upholding a lower court’s ruling that the individual mandate requirement in the health reform law is unconstitutional, but rejected the lower court’s conclusion that the rest of the law should be invalidated as a result. This case with 26 states as plaintiffs is among a number of challenges to the Affordable Care Act, which have mixed results in the courts to date underscoring the obvious point that the Supreme Court will need to weigh in with a final decision, although timing on that too remains unknown. 

A fair question to ask: How can state health program administrators be expected to plan amongst such uncertainty? To try to help, AMCHP convened a recent national teleconference to share with our members the details of the debt limit agreement, the potential impact on Title V and other critical MCH programs, and an outline of our advocacy strategies moving forward. A recording of the call will be posted to the AMCHP website. In case you missed it, please also see our recent Action Alert here for more information on what you can do to help inform policymakers about the impact of current and expected cuts.  

Looking forward to September it appears Congress will finally begin moving the annual appropriations bills that fund programs like Title V. It seems almost certain that they will not be completed by October 1 which means that a continuing resolution is highly likely once again. AMCHP will be working with elected officials in the coming weeks to make sure they have information on the damage recent cuts at both the federal and state level have had on MCH populations. Our message is that further cuts will result in certain suffering, will endanger the capacity of states to provide the most basic MCH functions, and will do more harm than good. We will be keeping you informed as usual via our e-newsletters and Legislative Alerts, and will be asking again for your help to make the case for sustained funding.