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 Legislative & Policy Corner

Federal Budget Update
With less than two months until expiration of the current continuing resolution keeping the government open, there is little progress to report from the special joint budget conference committee. Hopes are fading fast for negotiators to agree on top-line numbers that would allow appropriators to begin writing final FY 2014 bills. AMCHP continues to advocate as part of public health coalitions for Congress to move forward to end the sequester and sustain funding for key maternal and child health (MCH) programs. We expect to have additional updates coinciding with the upcoming Dec. 15 deadline.

PREEMIE Act Reauthorization Passes Congress
On Nov. 14, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act (S. 252) sending the law to President Obama for his signature. AMCHP joins the March of Dimes and other partners in thanking the bipartisan champions of the bill, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act renews the federal commitment to preventing preterm birth and will continue the effective partnership between the public and private sectors.

Full text of the law is here, and some of the key provisions include:

  • Reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research and programs on preterm birth to improve and track national data and develop methods to better understand and prevent late preterm births
  • Authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to award telemedicine grants and demonstration projects aimed at improving treatment of pregnant women and outcomes for babies born prematurely
  • Authorizes the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality to provide recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding reducing infant mortality, preterm birth and improving the health status of pregnant women and infants

Passage of this law builds on recent success in reducing the preterm birth rate for six consecutive years and will hopefully accelerate this positive trend. 

House Committee Holds Hearing on Public Health Legislation
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), on Nov. 20 held a hearing on “Examining Public Health Legislation to Help Local Communities.” The public health bills under consideration included:

  • H.R. 1098 – the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), which reauthorizes programs at CDC to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and support TBI surveillance systems and registries
  • H.R. 1281 – the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), which reauthorizes federal programs that provide assistance to states to improve and expand their newborn screening programs
  • H.R. 669 – the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act, introduced by subcommittee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), which provides for grants to help improve the understanding of sudden unexpected death
  • H.R. 3527 - the Poison Control Centers Reauthorization, introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), will reauthorize important activities related to poison control centers


HEALTH REFORM IMPLEMENTATION
 

Resources for Pregnant Women and ACA
It is becoming clear that the MCH workforce understands how health reform may affect some pregnant women. As a result, the National Health Law Program and the National Partnership for Women and Families both released resources on pregnant women and the Affordable Care Act. Please find the links below:

The National Partnership for Women and Families: Why the Affordable Care Act Matters for Women: Health Insurance Coverage for Lower- and Moderate-Income Pregnant Women and Frequently Asked Questions: Health Insurance Coverage for Low- and Moderate-Income Pregnant Women

In addition, the National Health Law Program released a Q&A on Pregnant Women’s Coverage under Medicaid and the ACA

As a reminder, and a quick “go-to” resource, AMCHP released its Who Will be Covered for What in 2014? chart that provides a breakdown of benefits and eligibility levels for MCH populations in a health reform era.

Immigration and the ACA
Many states are facing questions as to how the ACA applies to immigrants. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) released a civil immigration enforcement policy regarding information obtained during the eligibility determination process for health insurance coverage. The policy states that, “ICE does not use information about such individuals or members of their household that is obtained for purposes of determining eligibility for such coverage as the basis for pursuing a civil immigration enforcement action against such individuals or members of their household, whether that information is provided by a federal agency to the Department of Homeland Security for purposes of verifying immigration status information or whether the information is provided to ICE by another source.” The National Immigration Law Center has also published helpful resources on the ACA impact on immigrant communities, in particular, the Quick Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for ACA.