March 23, 2013

March 23 Washington Update


Greetings from Washington.  In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Senate passed its budget resolution.  Also in this update - a repeat of important information about how your organization can prepare to apply funding to be a "navigator" under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if your state is not running its own Exchange.  A federal "Funding Opportunity Announcement" (FOA) for navigator funding is expected soon. 

*** Navigator grants.*** Under the ACA, Exchanges (a.k.a., "Marketplaces") are required to provide grants to "navigator" entities that will help people figure out how to select insurance in a post-reform world.  There are required to be at least two types of entities serving as navigators in each state and one of those types must be a community or consumer-focused nonprofit organization.  Since Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) have lots of experience as navigators, they should consider applying for navigator grants.  In states not running their own Exchanges, the federal government will be selecting the navigators, and there are steps an organization can take in preparation for applying for funding.  See this blog post from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families for more information.

F2F funding legislation.  As reported earlier, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced a bill (H.R. 564) to extend funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2Fs) through FY 2016 at the current funding level of $5 million per year.  Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has now introduced an identical companion bill (S. 243).  At this point, there are no cosponsors on the Senate bill and there is one, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), on the House bill.  If you would like to urge your Representative and/or Senators to cosponsor these bills, you can find their contact information at http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm

Continuing resolution and budget resolution

A "continuing resolution" provides appropriations for government programs and agencies.  A "budget resolution" is a non-binding spending/revenue outline.  See last week's update for a more thorough explanation.

Appropriations.  This week the House and Senate were able to agree on a "continuing resolution" to provide appropriations for government agencies and programs through the end of the current (FY 2013) fiscal year, which ends on September 30.  The President is expected to sign this legislation.

As reported by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs:

This legislation locks in sequestration for FY 2013. It also provides funding for most federal agencies at FY 2012 levels minus a small across the board reduction. All grants funded via formula should expect at least a 5 percent reduction as a result of sequestration. For the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant after sequestration and the small across the board cut AMCHP projects the new baseline for FY 2013 could be $606 million or less. Also due to sequestration, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Education Home Visitation program will be cut by $20 million.   
 
However, this bill does provide increased funding for some agencies and programs. Specifically:

  • National Institutes of Health: +$71 million
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): +$150 million
  • Child Care and Development Block Grants: +$50 million
  • Head Start: +$33.5 million

While an important accomplishment in this budget climate, these programs will still suffer net reductions due to sequestration.  

Importantly, it is expected that the WIC program will not need to cut any beneficiaries.  See http://www.nwica.org/?q=advocacy/d14/d65.  

Budget resolution and sequestration.  Meanwhile, the bigger budget picture is still in flux.  While the House passed its budget resolution last week, and the Senate passed its budget resolution early this morning (after an all-nighter), it is not expected that the two chambers will be able to reach a compromise.  In any case, a budget resolution is non-binding, and failure to reach a conference agreement does not have any serious practical consequences.

Yet, there are still political pressures for a "grand bargain" that would replace the sequester with alternative spending cuts, measures to increase revenues, and/or cuts to entitlement programs.  The President has said that he would not agree to entitlement cuts unless the Republicans agreed to revenue increases, which is not something they are ready to do at this time.  The next pressure point to reach an agreement will be when the debt limit needs to be increased, which is expected to be July.

ACA implementation. 

This week, CMS held a National Health Insurance Marketplace Stakeholder Conference Call. The call archive is available until Monday the 25th by calling (800) 585-8367; conference ID: 16967333.

State-by-state calls will be held in the future.  The Open Door Forum page provides the tentative schedule, updates, and best point of state contacts in CMS Regional Offices.  

From CMS:  Websites where one can get information and sign up for updates are:

1.      HealthCare.gov: This site is geared towards consumers and provides general information about the Marketplace and health insurance. Consumers can sign up for email and/or text message updates.

2.      Marketplace.cms.gov: This is our partnership page that has a wide variety of tools and resources to help you help people prepare to apply, enroll and get coverage in 2014. At this site, you will find the following information:

  • Census data on where the uninsured live-down to the PUMA level;
  • Widgets and badges you can use on your own websites;
  • Multimedia presentations explaining the Marketplace;
  • Brochures, drop-in articles, and other information in English, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese; and
  • You can also sign up for updates.

To submit comments or make inquiries, contact partnership@cms.hhs.gov.

 

Congress will be on recess for the next two weeks, and there will not be a Washington update until it resumes business in April.   

 

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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