SORH Reauthorization Bill Update
The House and Senate returned to Washington in September for their final legislative work period before the 2018 mid-term elections. With the Senate having already passed the State Office of Rural Health (SORH) Reauthorization bill, the focus shifted to the House. The House bill, H.R. 5641, picked up a critical cosponsor with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) agreeing to sign-on. Griffith is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee which has primary jurisdiction over SORH legislation.
NOSORH met with the Energy and Commerce Committee during September and believes there is a good chance the Committee advances the SORH reauthorization bill the next time the committee addresses public health legislation.
SORH Funding Remains Unchanged
On September 13, the House and Senate conferees approved the conference report for the FY 2019 DoD and Labor-HHS spending bill (H.R. 6157). Five days later, the Senate passed the conference report by a 93-7 vote . On September 26, the House easily passed the conference report thus sending the FY 19 spending bill to the President which he is expected to sign.
The SORH number for FY 19 came in at $10,000,000 which is the same number as FY 18. When the House originally passed the FY 19 Labor-HHS bill, the funding was $11,000,000 for SORH. The Senate passed version was at $10,000,000. Conferees went with the Senate number.
Other rural health related items included in the conference report were Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility grants which were funded at $53,609,000. This is a four million dollar increase over FY 18. Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program was funded at $19,942,000 for FY 19. This is also a four million dollar increase over FY 18.
NOSORH Speaks Before U.S. Senate
On September 27, Lisa Davis, Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, spoke before the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee at their annual Rural Summit. The Summit was kicked off by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and featured Senators and participants from across the county addressing issues facing rural America.
Lisa Davis spoke on a panel addressing health care issues in rural America. The panel was led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) and moderated by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Senators Smith and Heitkamp were original cosponsors on the SORH Reauthorization bill. Davis thanked the Senate for passing the State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization Act of 2018 and spoke passionately about the challenges facing rural health.