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 Legislative & Policy Corner

Still Awaiting Action on Zika Funding and Continuing Resolution

Congress is still negotiating a package for emergency funding to address the Zika virus as well as a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded past the fiscal year’s end on Sept. 30. Points of contention include the length of time the CR would last (probably to Dec. 9) and whether there should be fiscal offsets to cover Zika funding. There is also opposition to provisions in a previously-passed House version of Zika funding that would limit funding for contraceptive services, particularly to an affiliate of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, as well as rolling back environmental protections related to mosquito spraying. In addition, there are reports that some members of Congress are trying to attach to the bill funding to address the Flint, Mich., water crisis, the recent flooding in Louisiana and other priorities. Senate leaders have said they would like to vote on a bill by the week of Sept. 19, and AMCHP staff will be sure to issue a Legislative Alert as soon as a deal is reached and any further action is taken.

Public Health Bills Pass Key House Health Subcommittee

On Sept. 13 the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health advanced several public health bills of interest to the MCH community. The next step for all three pieces of legislation is passage by the full Energy and Commerce Committee, then by the House of Representatives. Given the short Congressional calendar left for the remainder of the year, it is unclear if all of these bills will get passed. However, advancing them with bipartisan support this year may improve the chances of these bills becoming law in the future.

  •  HR 1209, the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) – would improve placement of maternal health professionals participating in the National Health Service Corps by requiring the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to designate maternity care health professional shortage areas. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that maternal health professionals are placed into communities with the greatest need for providers.
  • HR 1877, the Mental Health First Aid Act, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) – would authorize $15 million in grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for mental health awareness training for first responders, law enforcement, teachers and other community leaders so they might better recognize individuals coping with a mental health issue and provide critical assistance.
  • HR 2713, the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) – reauthorizes grants and scholarships for graduate and undergraduate nursing education in specified areas of nursing. The legislation will also allow clinical nurse leader education programs to be eligible for advanced education nursing grants. 

Homeland Security Committee Passes Bill to Support Parents Traveling with Breastmilk and Formula

On Sept. 13, the House Homeland Security Committee passed the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES) Act, sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-Wash.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.). The bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to notify air carriers and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security screening personnel of the exemptions for baby formula, breastmilk and juice on airlines. In addition, TSA would be required to provide ongoing training to its agents so that procedures are consistently enforced across all airport security checkpoints. 

Health Reform Implementation

CMS Awards Consumer Assistance Funds to Support Health Marketplace Enrollment

With open enrollment for 2017 only a few weeks away (Nov. 1), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services  announced $63 million in Navigator grant awards to returning and new organizations. These awards will support local, in-person assistance to help consumers navigate, shop for and enroll in the wide variety of Health Insurance Marketplace coverage options. A full list of award recipients is available here. Also, check out AMCHP's fact sheet on open enrollment.
Health Reform: Beyond the Basics Webinar Series Returns

To prepare for the upcoming open enrollment period, the Health Reform: Beyond the Basics project is presenting a reprisal of its four-part webinar series on key topics for those helping people sign up for marketplace coverage. Registration for the webinars is available here. Health Reform: Beyond the Basics is a project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Check out AMCHP's fact sheet on open enrollment to learn more.

HHS Awards $350,000 to American Academy of Pediatrics to Help Children Affected by Zika

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a $350,000 supplement to a one-year cooperative agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help expand capacity to care for children who are or may be impacted by the Zika virus. AAP will use these funds to deliver technical assistance and education, including teleconsultation, to clinicians at community health centers and other health care sites in states and U.S. territories (including Florida and Puerto Rico, which have seen Zika outbreaks).