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 Legislative and Policy Corner

Appropriations Update
On May 22, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its 302b allocations, meaning that the top line numbers for each of the appropriations bills are set. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) Appropriations Subcommittee, which is where funding for the Title V MCH Services Block Grant is housed, received level funding for FY2015. While we can breathe a small sigh of relief that there aren't further overall cuts, it is sobering to realize that these levels are approximately 4 percent below FY 2010 levels and nearly 12 percent below 2010, when adjusted for inflation. With the allocations now set, the subcommittees can move forward to write their bills.

We will be following closely and continuing to share with lawmakers the importance of Title V funding as we prepare for the next milestone: an expected Senate mark up (during which the subcommittee and then committee reviews and makes any changes to the proposed bill) during mid-June. In the meantime, there is no word on the House's schedule, which is all the more in flux now that the Labor-H subcommittee chairman advanced to a run-off in the hotly contested Georgia Senate primary. Stay tuned for more!

Combating Autism Act Passes House Subcommittee
On May 28, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 4631 to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act would continue autism-related research, early identification and intervention and education. During consideration of the bill, a commitment was made to continue working to address concerns of advocates, including a possible change to the title of the legislation, before the next step in the process, which is consideration by the full Energy & Commerce Committee.
 
Breastfeeding Support for Military Moms
Last week, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 4435), which included an amendment to make breastfeeding supplies and counseling available to military family members covered under the federal TRICARE insurance program, similar to that currently required in private health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. The language is also included in the Senate bill, which essentially ensures enactment of this provision.

Health Reform Implementation
On May 22, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability up to $730 million in funds for State Innovation Models: Round Two of Funding for Design and Test Assistance to help states design and test improvements to their public and private health care payment and delivery systems. Project goals are to improve health, improve care, and decrease costs for consumers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries. 
 
HHS also issued the final rule and FAQ on Exchange and Insurance Market Standards for 2015 and beyond. Among other topics, the final rule topics include implementation of essential health benefits, guaranteed availability, and minimum essential coverage.