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 Legislative & Policy Corner

AMCHP Celebrates an MCH Landmark

Oct. 24, 2013 - Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act, the first major legislation to combat mental illness and retardation. This law amended Title V of the Social Security Act “to assist states and communities in preventing and combating mental retardation through expansion and improvement of maternal and child health and crippled children's programs; through provision of prenatal, maternity, and infant care for individuals with conditions associated with childbearing which may lead to mental retardation; and through planning for comprehensive action to combat mental retardation.”  

One week later, Kennedy signed his last bill into law to provide funding for the construction of facilities related to the prevention, care, and treatment of people with intellectual disabilities, including research centers to study the causes of intellectual disabilities, university-related diagnostic treatment clinics, and community-based centers for the care of people with intellectual disabilities. Visit here to learn more about both of these efforts.

Notably, the 1963 MCH amendments doubled the appropriation for Title V services over five years. It also set the stage for efforts to provide and promote family-centered, community-based, coordinated care for children and youth with special health care needs and to facilitate the development of community-based systems of services. While the science and language that guides our efforts has evolved and improved, the concepts endorsed 50 years ago continue to be a central focus of state Title V programs today.

Upon signing the law, President Kennedy said, “Enactment of this legislation is…an important landmark in our drive to eliminate one of the major health hazards affecting mankind. We can say with some assurance that, although children may be the victims of fate, they will not be the victims of our neglect.”   On a separate occasion marking an anniversary of the Social Security Act, President Kennedy said, “We celebrate the past, to awaken the future.”  In that spirit, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs celebrates this notable anniversary, thanking each of you for your commitment to improving maternal and child health, and recommitting to the pledge made a half century ago that America’s children “will not be the victims of our neglect.”

Federal Budget Update
On Oct.16, President Obama signed legislation to reopen the federal government and provide continued funding at FY 2013 post sequestration levels through Jan. 15, 2014. This legislation also suspends enforcement of the federal debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. 

The deal also set in motion a congressional budget conference committee comprised of House and Senate negotiators. They are charged with crafting a wider budget agreement to include a framework for final FY 2014 program levels by Dec. 13, 2013. AMCHP staff are now working with MCH and public health coalitions to ask members of this committee to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction and recognize that programs like the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant have already contributed nearly $125 million deficit-reducing cuts over the past decade. The period between now and Dec. 13 offers a critical opportunity for us to spread this message. 

In order for AMCHP to best represent you and the MCH populations you serve, we need additional information on how current budget cuts are impacting the services you provide. Please take a moment to complete this brief survey. Finally, for those who are able we urge you to begin planning now to attend the AMCHP Annual Conference in Jan. and schedule visits with your Congressional representatives to educate them on the value of MCH investments in your state. Additional information on available training and materials to support these efforts will be shared soon.

Health Reform Implementation
As you have probably noticed, the website that serves as the portal to the federally facilitated marketplace, HealthCare.gov is off to a bumpy start. Despite the website woes, there are still avenues through which consumers can apply for health coverage in the states where the federal government is operating the marketplace. In an email on Oct. 21, Secretary Sebelius provided four ways for consumers to apply in addition to the website:

  • Apply online: Visit HealthCare.gov to get started.
  • Apply by phone: Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)
  • Apply in person: Visit a trained counselor in your community to get information and apply in person, find help in your area at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov
  • Apply by mail: Complete a paper application and mail it in; you can download the paper application form and instructions from HealthCare.gov

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also provided this useful infographic on solutions/problems and other resources.