Legislative Corner

Budget Updates – Super Committee Flounders and FY 2012 Title V Funding Remains Unresolved
At press time today, all indications are that the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) will not be able to produce an acceptable plan to reduce the deficit. In this case, additional automatic cuts will be applied to many federal programs starting in 2013, with $400 billion over 10 years coming from the domestic discretionary account that provides funding for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant and other public health programs. AMCHP is seeking additional analysis on the potential impact on Title V and other critical public health programs, and our advocacy against indiscriminate cuts will continue.

Meanwhile, last week, President Obama signed into law the first, yearlong fiscal 2012 spending package (HR 2112) containing funding for five federal agencies – but not the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which remains unfinished. This bill did, however, include another continuing resolution that will keep other federal programs operating through Dec. 16 at current levels. In one bright spot, the package funds WIC for the FY 2012 at $6.6 billion, which was better than expected and includes $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and related activities. Additional details are available from our colleagues at the National WIC Association here.

It now remains an open question whether Congress will be able to agree on health program funding levels for FY 2012 in the next few weeks or whether they might revert to a year-long continuing resolution at slightly reduced levels. So the uncertainty continues, and we will report more details as available.

Supreme Court Announces Plan to Review ACA
The Supreme Court recently announced plans to consider challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and according to analysts will probably render a decision by June 2012. The Court will decide whether Congress exceeded its powers through the individual mandate requirement that all people buy health insurance coverage or face financial penalties. Notably, the Court also agreed to decide a challenge to the provision requiring states to expand Medicaid. If either or both of these provisions are struck down by the Court they will then decide which other provisions included in the ACA should be struck down as well. Finally, the Court will decide whether the decision on the individual mandate should be deferred until 2015 after the requirement is in effect.

The Supreme Court ruling will obviously be extremely important to the future of the ACA. If the individual mandate is struck down it is unclear how many of the insurance reforms, such as prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition, will be able to continue. AMCHP continues to monitor these developments closely and will keep you informed moving forward.

Health Care Innovation Challenge
On Nov. 14, HHS announced that the Health Care Innovation Challenge will award grants in March to applicants in order to implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, particularly those with the highest health care needs.

The challenge will support projects that can begin within six months. Additionally, projects that focus on rapid workforce development will be given priority when grants are awarded. Awards are expected to range from approximately $1 million to $30 million over three years. Grants are open to providers, payers, local government, community-based organizations, and, in particular, to public-private partnerships and multi-payer approaches. Each grantee project will be evaluated and monitored for measurable improvements in quality of care and savings generated. Letters of intent are due Dec. 19.

States are not eligible to apply, but AMCHP encourages you to share with local colleagues and consider partnerships with other eligible partners that have best practice models designed to improve the health of women and children that can apply for this funding. Click here for additional information