The following update was provided by Hall Render, NOSORH Policy Liaison:
Short-Term Funding Deal Reached to End Government Shutdown
On January 18, President Trump announced a deal to temporarily reopen the federal government and end the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The deal funds the remaining federal agencies until February 15, giving lawmakers more time to try to work out a compromise on the immigration and border security issues. President Trump called on the Senate to bring the proposal to the floor for a vote immediately. The House is hoping to clear the bill by unanimous consent. The agreement is considered the product of negotiations between the Senate’s top leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who met on Thursday following the failure of two measures in the Senate to reopen the government.
While the shutdown did not impact HHS-related programs, some rural health programs and projects could be delayed due to the month-long shutdown. Projects including hospitals and addiction treatment facilities backed by grants awarded last fall by the USDA’s rural development program could be impacted. Congress now has less than three weeks to come up with a solution for a border security deal, however most lawmakers believe another shutdown this year is unlikely.
Senate Clears Medicaid Extenders Measure
On January 17, the Senate passed by voice vote legislation to extend certain Medicaid policies known as “extenders.” The measure will go to the president’s desk for signature since the House passed the bill. The extenders were passed late last session by both the House and the Senate but through different bills that were never signed into law.
This bill alters several Medicaid programs and funding mechanisms. Specifically, the bill includes $112 million for a roughly three-month extension of the Money Follows the Person demonstration, which helps state Medicaid programs transition older adults and people with chronic illnesses back into their communities. It also temporarily extends the applicability of Medicaid eligibility criteria that protect against spousal impoverishment for recipients of home- and community-based services. Additionally, it reduces the federal medical assistance percentage (i.e., federal matching rate) for states that have not implemented asset-verification programs for determining Medicaid eligibility and reduces funding available to the Medicaid Improvement Fund beginning in FY 2021.
Rural Health Related Bill Introduced
On January 18, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation that extend community health centers and four other federal health programs. The legislation (S. 192) would provide five years of mandatory funding for the Community Health Center Program, National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, Special Diabetes at the NIH, and Special Diabetes for Indians. Mandatory funding for the programs is set to expire after September 30, 2019. The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on the programs and will likely vote to advance the bill later this year.