From the President

AMCHP and the Affordable Care Act

By Stephanie Birch, RNC, MPH, MS, FNP 

As AMCHP’s new president, I am feeling both thrilled and challenged to take office at such an exciting time. The budget situations we collectively face are truly daunting, casting a long shadow over everything, including how we as MCH leaders look at the options, opportunities and challenges for state MCH programs included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

On the positive side, the ACA makes vital new investments in MCH and public health, primarily through the new sections of Title V created by the ACA that provide close to $1.9 billion over five years to states for the new Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting and Personal Responsibility Education Grant Programs (PREP), as well as the $5 billion mandatory appropriation (over five years) for the Prevention and Public Health Fund. On the other hand, it seems there is no end to the partisanship and divisiveness around the health reform law which we all know creates great variability in levels of enthusiasm for implementation across the states. 

As we approach the one year anniversary of passage of the ACA, I wanted to share how AMCHP is approaching implementation of this law. At a recent meeting of the AMCHP board of directors we conducted an in-depth and thoughtful discussion of how to proceed in such a highly charged and contentious atmosphere in many states. After reviewing the current status of efforts to repeal, defund or legally block implementation of the law, the board came to consensus that AMCHP must be highly sensitive to these challenges. Many of you work in states where your executive branch is weighing their positions on implementing any or all parts of the Affordable Care Act. AMCHP is sensitive to your position and the need to follow your state’s direction. That said, the board of directors feel that it is important for MCH leaders and program staff to stay informed and be knowledgeable of what is happening around the ACA and be poised to provide input and look for ways to implement as is possible.                               

To support this work, we learned more about the emerging AMCHP National Center for Health Reform Implementation (read on further in this issue). This Center is providing state MCH leaders and their partners with information, tools and resources to optimize opportunities throughout implementation to improve services, systems and outcomes for MCH populations. As we move forward, I welcome your thoughts on how we should approach this work.