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 Legislative and Policy Corner

Appropriations Update – Title V Maternal & Child Health Block Grant Receives an Increase
The waiting game is over! Following passage by the House on Dec. 11 and the Senate on Dec. 13, the president is expected to sign into law an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2015. The $1.1 trillion bill funds the government through the remainder of FY 2015 with the exception of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is funded through Feb. 27. We are excited to share that this measure includes a $3 million increase for the Title V Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Block Grant bringing the total to $637 million. At a time when most domestic health programs received flat funding, this increase is a testament to your voices being heard and we look forward to continuing the momentum as we turn to advocating for FY 2016 beginning with our Capitol Hill day next month.

Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act Sent to President for Signature
On Dec. 10, the House passed the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act (HR 1281) and is expected to be signed by the president soon. This bill will renew for five years important federal initiatives that assist state newborn screening programs, support parent and provider education and ensure the accuracy and quality of newborn screening tests. The Senate had passed the bill a few days earlier with the addition of an amendment temporarily requiring informed consent for blood spots that will be used in federally funded research beginning 90 days after enactment until the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issues an updated rule regarding Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects. This provision should not interfere with initial collection and screening nor interrupt current research. AMCHP staff will continue to monitor developments of this policy, though the full impact at this time is uncertain.

Governors Respond to Congress for Input on CHIP
As you may recall, the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Committees with jurisdiction over the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) sent a letter to governors this summer requesting input on the program. Without further congressional action, funding for the CHIP program will expire in September 2015 and could leave millions of children either without coverage at all or moved into insurance plans that require much higher cost sharing and provide fewer benefits. In light of this, AMCHP will continue to actively support continued funding for the program and notes the particular importance of retaining access to CHIP for children with special health care needs. Thirty-nine governors responded and each one voiced support for extending funding for CHIP. You may view a summary of the responses here and copies of the letters here.

Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act Clears Congress
A final version of the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 3 clearing the way for enactment into law by the president. This legislation will enhance surveillance on sudden unexplained infant death (SUID), sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC) and stillbirth; improve the development of standard protocols for use in death scene investigations and autopsies surrounding these deaths; allow the Secretary of HHS to conduct training activities regarding these protocols; and require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in consultation with National Institutes of Health (NIH), to submit a report to Congress on current activities related to stillbirth, SUID, and SUDC and evaluate the possibility of expanding programs related to SUDC specifically.

Health Reform Implementation

Young v. UPS
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case that involves a pregnant UPS driver who had asked for a lighter duty during her pregnancy to preserve her health, but was denied that request, forcing her to take unpaid leave and remain without health insurance during her pregnancy in 2006. The outcome of this case may have important implications for women and families.

The Affordable Care Act mandates Qualified Health Plans to cover maternity care and childbirth. Learn about health care options for pregnant or soon to be pregnant women here.

Open Enrollment
In the first two weeks of open enrollment, more than 760,000 plans have been selected on the marketplace, half of which are new consumers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has developed a research-based, consumer-focused website to help direct individuals and families to health care coverage options. The website can be accessed here and shared among networks. AMCHP also has an open enrollment 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. 

Upcoming Webinar
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, Dec.17 at 2:30 p.m. EST, entitled Enrollment 2.0: Early State Experiences in Year 2 of the ACA. The webinar will explore challenges and strategies from the state perspective in state-based agency and a federally facilitated marketplace. 

HHS Funding for Health Centers
HHS awarded $36.3 million in ACA funding to 1,113 health centers in all 50 states, seven U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The financial award is in recognition of quality improvement achievements at these various centers and as an investment in ongoing quality improvement activities. A portion of the funding will go to national quality leaders "for exceeding national clinical benchmarks (Healthy People 2020 objectives and health center national averages) for chronic disease management, preventive care and perinatal/prenatal care, demonstrating the critical role that health centers play in promoting higher quality health care nationwide." The full bulletin can be accessed here.