On September 30, the final day of the fiscal 2021 calendar, Congress passed, and the President signed into law H.R. 5305, a continuing resolution (CR) that extends FY 2021 funding for all federal programs through December 3, 2021. By December 3, Congress must adopt another short-term CR or pass a dozen appropriations bills that fund the federal government through the 2022 fiscal year. While the short-term CR includes additional funding for disaster relief and Afghanistan, it is otherwise clean. The extension most likely means Congress will now pass an omnibus fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending bill sometime in December to usher in FY 22 spending levels.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has still not provided legislative text for their FY 22 Labor-HHS spending bill. NOSORH met with the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee earlier this month to discuss rural health appropriations and continues to work with the state offices to contact their Congressional delegations and urge Senate offices to support increased SORH funding for the coming fiscal year. In mid-July, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Labor-HHS spending bill, which included $13 million for the SORH grant program, an increase of $500,000 over FY 2021. The Appropriations Committee included $79,009,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility (FLEX) Grants, $23,400,000 above the FY 2021 enacted level and $23,242,000 for SHIP, an increase of $2,300,000 over FY 21.

In non-appropriations news, the CR provides Congress an additional two months to attempt to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill includes portions of his domestic legislative agenda, including changes to Medicare. The current text includes an extension of the two percent Medicare sequestration cuts to help fund other priorities. It remains unclear if the reconciliation package will make it through Congress, even at a smaller price tag.

Bill Reauthorizing Flex Nearing Introduction:
Throughout 2021, NOSORH has been working with NRHA and Rep. Graves (R-MO) to introduce legislation that seeks to reauthorize, make important updates and increase funding for the Flex program. Rep. Graves office is still aiming to introduce this bipartisan bill sometime in the fall.

Recently Introduced Rural Health Bills:
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) introduced H.R. 5240, the Rural Health Training Opportunities Act, which would require geographic diversity in the provision of health profession opportunity grants under section 2008 of the Social Security Act.