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 Legislative & Policy Corner

AMCHP Issues Legislative Alert on Budget Scenarios
Last Friday, AMCHP issues a detailed alert providing the latest details on the hazy year end budget showdown along with a request for your help in briefly documenting how unpredictable federal budgeting creates state inefficiencies and distracts from your mission to improve MCH. The alert is available here.

Early Hearing Defection & Intervention, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Bills Pass House
On Sept. 8, the House of Representatives passed two public health bills of interest to the MCH community. HR 1344, the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program through 2020. HR 1462, the Protecting Our Infants Act, would require the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to report on prenatal opioid abuse and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS); require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with reviewing its activities related to prenatal opioid use and NAS and develop a strategy to address gaps in research and programs; and require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide technical assistance to states to improve NAS surveillance and make surveillance data publicly available. Both bills now await action by the Senate.

AMCHP Joins Call for Congress to Raise the Caps
On Sept. 10, AMCHP joined a coalition of more than 2,500 organizations in a letter calling on Congress to end harmful cuts to non-defense discretionary programs and to raise the budget caps currently in place. Without a deal to raise the caps, sequestration will return in 2016 and result in further cuts to important domestic programs, including core public health investments. The text of the letter can be found here.

Health Reform Implementation

Navigator Grants
A few weeks ago, HHS announced $67 million in grant awards to 100 organizations that will serve as federal Navigators using Healthcare.gov. The 2015 grants awards will last for three years. Navigators will be working day in and day out to give people the kind of face-to-face application and enrollment help that makes them more likely to get covered. More information is available here. The full list of recipients, organized by state, is available here. This list provides important information for MCH leaders and staff; these organizations can serve a critical role in helping MCH populations sign up for health care.

ACA Funding for Health Centers
On Sept. 15, HHS Secretary Burwell announced approximately $500 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to increase access to primary care services. The awards include approximately $350 million for 1,184 health centers to increase access to services such as medical, oral, behavioral, pharmacy, and vision care. Nearly $150 million will be awarded to 160 health centers for facility renovation, expansion, or construction to increase patient or service capacity (HHS, 2015). According to Secretary Burwell, "With these awards, health centers will be able to do things like increase their hours of operation, hire more behavioral health providers, add dental facilities, better treat patients with opioid use disorders, and help people get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and make the journey from coverage to primary care." Health centers are important in serving women, children, and families who may not be eligible for public or private health insurance options. For more information on coverage options for MCH populations, check out the AMCHP coverage chart. 

Essential Health Benefits-Opportunity for Title V Expert Engagement!
In our last Member Briefs, we reported that states have submitted proposed Essential Health Benefit (EHB) benchmark plans for 2017 (available here). There is a public comment period for these plans (ending at 11:59 p.m. EST, Sept. 30) that offers an opportunity for Title V programs to engage in the transformation of the health care delivery system. Most of the 10 EHB requirements are pertinent to MCH populations throughout the life course. Title V programs have the opportunity to review the proposals to better understand the types of benefits and scope or limitations on services, as they pertain to MCH populations. The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has created a step-by-step guide for reviewing the proposed EHB plans, available here. In addition, the Center for Children and Families (CCF) drafted questions to help individuals review the benchmark plans with a focus on children and families. These resources are a wonderful starting point if your MCH program is gearing up to review your respective state proposed EHB plan.