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 Legislative & Policy Corner

AMCHP Mobilizes 49 National Organizations to Support Sustained Funding for the MCH Block Grant
In March, AMCHP spearheaded an effort resulting in 49 national organizations signing onto a letter sent to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees in support of $645 million in funding for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant. Click here to view the letter.

Prevention and Public Health Fund…Targeted Again
On Friday, by a vote largely along party lines, the House approved the Interest Rate Reduction Act (H.R. 4628), a bill designed to keep interest rates on Stafford education loans low. However, in order to pay the costs of the bill, the House proposed to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund and rescind all of the unobligated balances. Elimination of this fund would have a significant impact on public health funding. Notably, President Obama issued a veto threat for this bill because the legislation uses the Fund as a pay for. The Senate will consider legislation to reduce the interest rates when they return from recess next week but it is anticipated they will use a different approach to pay for their legislation.

AMCHP developed talking points and enlisted the support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the March of Dimes, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to highlight the importance of the Fund to women and their families. These talking points were circulated to House leadership and the White House. 

Federal Funding Update
Last week, the House appropriators set the overall level of funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations bill. The limit is $150 billion for fiscal 2013 spending on health and labor programs, about $6 billion (or 4 percent) lower than the current allocation. Additionally, this allocation is about 5 percent less than the Senate allocation of $157.7 billion for the same bill. This undoubtedly sets the Senate and House LHHS bills on a collision course at the end of the year and it is unclear how the two congressional bodies will resolve their differences. Notably, President Obama this week threatened to veto any appropriations bill adopted by Congress that would cap agency spending at lower levels than agreed to in the bipartisan deal to raise the nation’s debt limit last summer.

Budget Reconciliation Targets Affordable Care Act Funding and Medicaid
On Apr. 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to approve draft measures that will significantly impact health for women, children and their families. Under the first measure, the Prevention and Public Health Fund would be eliminated and the remaining money would be rescinded. AMCHP drafted a letter opposing this action. Click here to read the letter.

The second measure that was approved would repeal the “maintenance of effort” requirements on states for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. The legislation would allow states to apply more restrictive eligibility standards for programs. The draft bill also would reduce the federal Medicaid match rate for U.S. territories from 55 percent to 50 percent, as well as cut the health care provider tax from the current 6 percent threshold to no greater than 5.5 percent.

This measure is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, however, it is important to note that some of these proposals may gain traction during the lame duck session when Congress needs to find ways to pay for the expiring tax cuts, Medicare doctor fix and tax extenders. AMCHP will continue to closely monitor these developments and continue to weigh in with members of Congress about the value of public health.