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 Legislative and Policy Corner

As the pundits predicted, election day resulted in a new Republican majority for the Senate and a greater number of seats for the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. As a nonpartisan organization, we are pleased to have positive relationships across the aisle, but recognize that the change in power could have some effects on the federal programs we care most deeply about. First and foremost, Congress must still pass appropriations for FY 2015 before funding expires on Dec. 11. To date, current leadership of the appropriations committees have been vocal in supporting an omnibus appropriations package that will fund the government through the remainder of FY 2015, but there are others who would like to pass a shorter-term funding bill now and then pass another package in the new year that would be more reflective of the new majority's priorities. AMCHP favors an approach that would provide full funding for the remainder of FY 2015 so that Title V programs have more certainty for their budgets in the coming year. We will then turn to our request for FY 2016, keeping in mind that, although Republicans have traditionally touted programs like block grants which respect state flexibility, the desire for deficit reduction may supersede that support.

Funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program is another issue we are staying on top of with current funding set to expire in March 2015. MIECHV has received strong bipartisan support in the past, but its future may be in peril because of concerns expressed, most notably by staff for the incoming Senate Chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over MIECHV, for the level of funding it has received. AMCHP is working as part of a broader coalition of MIECHV stakeholders to communicate the importance of and rationale for continuing the program at its current funding level so that the progress made over the past several years will not be eroded. 

Finally, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding and the Community Health Centers expansion fund both need to be extended by Sept. 30, 2015. AMCHP will continue to support both and watch closely how Congress chooses to act to fund these priorities. We look forward to the role you can play in communicating the importance of all of these programs by meeting with your elected officials in Washington during the AMCHP annual conference!   

Health Reform Implementation

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Health Care Subsidies
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) agreed to hear a case this term, King V. Burwell, on whether low to middle-income individuals on federally run exchanges are eligible to receive health care subsidies. The contention arises from a phrase in the law specifying that subsidies are provided to individuals below 400 percent of the poverty line in "exchanges established by a state." Thirty-seven states did not establish a state-run marketplace, therefore the outcome of this case has direct implications for all populations in those 37 states. AMCHP will continue to monitor this case and its implications for MCH populations.

Open Enrollment for Health Insurance
Saturday, Nov. 15 is the first day for open enrollment. This open enrollment period will last three months and end on Feb. 15. AMCHP has developed a fact sheet for MCH leaders. This resource includes suggested steps for MCH leaders during the open enrollment period. The fact sheet is posted here. Please contact Carolyn McCoy (cmccoy@amchp.org) if you have any questions.

Minimum Essential Coverage and Pregnant Women
On Friday, Nov. 7, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a guidance letter to state health officials and state Medicaid directors regarding minimum essential coverage (MEC). This letter states that the Secretary for Health and Human Services intends to exercise her authority in recognizing certain types of Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women as meeting MEC. In addition, the letter highlights the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plan to release guidance on pregnancy while enrolled in a QHP and eligibility for Advanced Premium Tax Credits (APTCs) and options for pregnancy coverage under CHIP. AMCHP will continue to analyze this situation as it unfolds and has an issue brief and national webinar planned to provide state MCH leaders detailed information on this topic in the future. If you have any insight on this topic from your state, please e-mail Carolyn McCoy (cmccoy@amchp.org), we always appreciate hearing from you!

New Report on Hispanic Children
The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza released a report documenting health care coverage for Hispanic Children in the United States. The report highlights that despite the steady decline of uninsurance among Hispanic children, they are still more likely to be uninsured than the national average. 

Title V Health Reform Implementation Webinar
On Oct. 29 from 3-4 p.m. EDT, AMCHP and the National MCH Workforce Development Center hosted a webinar to introduce a comprehensive self-assessment tool that will help your Title V agency assess health reform-related activities in your state. The tool can help you clearly define your state capacity and opportunities to leverage existing MCH skills to drive health transformation – in all its forms – for maternal and child health populations. The National MCH Workforce Development Center at UNC Chapel Hill offers state and territorial Title V leaders training, collaborative learning, coaching and consultation in implementing health reform using a variety of learning platforms.