March 03, 2013

March 3 Washington Update


Greetings from Washington.  This report will focus on the big news of the week -- the sequestration that will impose across-the-board cuts in FY 2013 spending for many federal programs, including special education, medical research, child care, housing, mental health treatment and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs).

Just a few hours before the 11:59 PM deadline on Friday, March 1, the President issued the order required to implement the legally mandated and much-anticipated "sequestration" of federal funds to achieve deficit reduction.  The sequester was the mechanism established by earlier law to reduce the deficit in the absence of an alternative developed by the 2011 "Super Committee."  But the Super Committee could not reach an agreement, and subsequent negotiations to change the sequestration mandate failed.  At this point, the President and most congressional Democrats want to achieve deficit reduction through both spending cuts and increased "revenues" (i.e., closure of tax loopholes and/or other increases in taxes), while the Republicans want all deficit reduction to come from spending cuts.  Each side is now hoping that public pressure will influence the debate in favor of its respective position.

The sequestration spending cuts will total $85 billion for FY 2013, which began on October 1, 2012.  Half of cuts will come from defense spending, and half will come from domestic spending, but some important programs are exempt from any cuts, including Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and Social Security.  Medicare provider payments will be cut 2% on an annualized basis.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had to calculate exactly what percentage of cuts would come from each category of spending (non-exempt discretionary and mandatory programs in both defense and non-defense).  In a report issued on March 1, OMB concluded that cuts in domestic discretionary spending (e.g., special education, medical research, housing, child care, and mental health treatment) will be reduced by 5 percent on an annualized basis.  Since we are already five months into the fiscal year, these programs will be cut approximately 9 percent for the next seven months if no reductions have been made by the administering agencies to date.

F2F funding.  The funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) falls within the category of domestic mandatory, rather than discretionary, spending.  The OMB has calculated that, in general, domestic mandatory spending programs will be cut by 5.1 percent on an annualized basis.  Since FY 2013 funds have not yet been used for F2F grants, these cuts would be spread over twelve months, so should not be greater than 5.1 percent.  However, the sequestration calculations are extremely complicated, and there are some variations within categories, so only HRSA will be able to provide a definitive answer on the cuts to F2F funding.

Although the sequester cuts are effective as of March 1, real-world effects, like the furloughing of federal employees and reductions in services, may not be felt for a while.  For an article about how the sequester would affect various health programs, see http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2013/february/20/sequester-health-cuts.aspx. For White House information on how various federal programs will be affected in each state, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/22/what-sequester#states.

F2F funding legislation.  As reported earlier, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced a bill to extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers through FY 2016 at the current funding level of $5 million per year.  We also expect a Senate companion bill to be introduced by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) again. 

This week Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) joined as a cosponsor of the House bill.  If you would like to urge your Representative to cosponsor the House bill (H.R. 564), you can find his/her contact information at www.house.gov.  

Upcoming webinars and opportunities for comment

Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Program.  As reported earlier, The Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) program is a joint effort of the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) which will fund model demonstration projects in States to promote improved outcomes for children who receive SSI and their families.  Such projects will be required to form strong and effective partnerships among relevant State agencies, which must provide coordinated services and supports designed to improve the education and employment outcomes of these children and their families. The Department of Education has posted a Public Input Notice (PIN) inviting interested persons and organizations to provide input on this new competitive grant program at www.ed.gov/PROMISE.  The final webinar on the program will be held on: March 5th at 3:00-4:30 pm ET. Click here to join.  The teleconference can be joined by dialing: 1 800-503-2899 and typing in the following Access Code when prompted: 4036828.

The Health Care Law 101.  A presentation on the main provisions in the Affordable Care Act and how to access care in your community will be held in English on March 7 at 1:00 p.m. ET, and in Spanish on March 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Information worth repeating

Frequently Asked Questions about ACA Implementation.  CMS has posted a set of frequently asked questions about Medicaid and CHIP issues related to the ACA, including changes in Medicaid eligibility (under the "Eligibility Policy" category.)

Patient Navigators, Assisters, and Certified Application Counselors.  F2Fs should be exploring ways that they can get more funding by serving as one of the types of consumer-assistance entities created to implement the ACA.  See blogs about this topic from Community Catalyst  and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.  See also this recent Washington Post article about navigators. 

FEMA Seeks Applicants for National Advisory Council. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking individuals interested in serving on the National Advisory Council (NAC), an advisory committee established to ensure effective and ongoing coordination of federal preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation for natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters. The NAC will have positions open for applications and nominations in a number of disciplines including functional accessibility (one representative appointment) and emergency response (one representative appointment for a one-year term).  The deadline for applications is Friday, March 8, 2012, 5:00 p.m. EST.  For more information, see www.fema.gov/national-advisory-council.

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As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Best, Janis & Brooke

Janis Guerney, Esq.
202-546-0558
jguerney@familyvoices.org 

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.
202-333-2770
blehmann@familyvoices.org