November 3 – On Thursday, November 2, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation that will reauthorize funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Community Health Centers (CHCs), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and several other health care programs. Funding for these programs expired on October 1, 2017.
The CHAMPION Act (HR 3922) would reauthorize funding for the NHSC and CHCs for two years at the same level as FY17. The HEALTHY KIDS Act (HR 3921) would reauthorize funding for CHIP for five years with a decreased federal match rate after the first two years. Both bills passed along party lines in the House Energy and Commerce Committee in mid-October.
ACU recognizes the urgency of action on these critical programs and is pleased to see progress in the path forward to extend funding for the NHSC. It is difficult enough to recruit providers to underserved communities without the uncertainty caused by this delay in funding for FY18. While Congress clearly acknowledges the value of the NHSC, as shown by their commitment to extend funding for the program, the current legislation does not address the existing and growing need for access to primary care services. As the bill moves through the House and on to the Senate we will continue to work with Members of Congress to advocate for increased funding for the NHSC.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Greg Walden (R-Oregon) is expected to introduce an amendment in the Rules Committee today that will combine HR3922 and HR3921 into one larger package. Once through Rules, the unified measure will move to the floor for a House vote. The bill is anticipated to pass through the House without much Democratic support. Democratic leadership has objected to the use of the Prevention and Public Health Fund to finance these programs; a cut that would undermine key health programs in the annual appropriations process.
The inclusion of cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund will delay action in the Senate while they seek other offsets for these programs, thus slowing final passage even further past the expiration of these programs and endangering care to even more vulnerable people across the country.
The Association of Clinicians for the Underserved is a transdisciplinary membership organization of clinicians, advocates, and healthcare organizations that provide health care for the underserved. Our programs include professional education, clinical tools, advocacy, patient education, training and technical assistance. For more information, please visit our website at www.clinicians.org.