By Brent Ewig, MHS
Director, Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP
The year 2015 was marked by continued divisiveness in our nation's capital and an outbreak of intense campaigning that will culminate in the selection of a new president in just ten months. Before considering what AMCHP is doing to prepare for the FY 2017 appropriations season and the next administration, it is worth looking back to celebrate two substantial maternal and child health policy wins in 2016.
Last April, Congress passed legislation providing a two-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program; the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP); Community Health Centers (CHCs); and Family to Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) – all at current funding levels. These extensions were attached to a larger bill repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) for doctors providing Medicare services. The vote in the Senate was a solidly bi-partisan 92-8 and in the House was 392-37. President Obama promptly signed it into law, assuring these programs are on solid ground until Sept. 30, 2017.
Together the above programs provide critical investments in the health of women, children and families. AMCHP welcomed the small measure of stability provided by this two-year extension. We are proud to have worked with a broad coalition of stakeholders supporting these programs and are gratified by the level of bipartisan support to include them in the SGR legislative package.
More recently, last December Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that provided a $1.2 million increase for the Title V Maternal & Child Health Services Block Grant to $638,200,000. Notably, this bill reversed the previously proposed cuts to the Special Projects of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS) line that were contained in the Senate Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies bill last summer.
We were very pleased to help turn a proposed cut into a small increase. Turning to the coming year we are looking to increase this momentum by asking for a more substantial increase to the Title V MCH Block Grant of $12 million to bring it to a total of $650 million for FY 2017. Please stay tuned for opportunities to help make the case for this increase in the coming months.
While solidly focused on the upcoming appropriations cycle, we are also looking beyond the horizon to the next presidential administration and preparing to create an MCH policy agenda that the next president can begin implementing within their first 100 days in office. To this end, AMCHP's Legislative and Health Care Finance Committee is beginning deliberations now to craft a set of policy recommendations to share with the next president's top policy advisors right after the election. This will include a review of what funding levels are needed for current programs, where new programs might be needed, and how to best build upon the transformation happening with health reform now. Your ideas, suggestions and recommendations for this process are welcome and encouraged! Please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct at 202-266-3041.