|Last week, Congress passed a $1.5T omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30. The House passed the package on March 10th and the Senate passed the package on March 11th when the most recent continuing resolution was set to expire. Continuing resolutions are short-term measures that to keep the government funded at current levels and provide Congress with additional time craft a more comprehensive spending package.
|Community Health Center Funding
|Community health centers receive funding through two main sources: mandatory funding through the Community Health Center Fund, and discretionary funding through the annual appropriations process. Congress last reauthorized the Community Health Center Fund at $4B per year through FY23. For FY22, $1.7B in discretionary funding for community health centers was included in the omnibus package. The funding if broken down into the following categories:
- $122M for Ending the HIV Epidemic
- $30M for School-based health centers
- $22M for Native Hawaiian Health Care
- $2M for Intimate Partner Violence
- $5M for the Alcee L. Hastings Program for Advanced Cancer Screening in Underserved Communities
|The omnibus bill also included additional funding for other programs through the Health Services & Resources Administration (HRSA), the agency that oversees the community health center program and primary care workforce programs such as the National Health Services Corps and Nurse Corps programs.
|Medicare Telehealth Extensions
|In addition to health center funding, the omnibus package includes temporary extensions of Medicare telehealth flexibilities permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill will extend the following flexibilities for 5 months beyond the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (currently set to expire on July 15):
- Community health centers will continue to be recognized as distant sites
- Geographic restrictions on originating sites are waived (allowing telehealth to be delivered in patient homes)
- Audio-only telehealth will continue to be covered
- The in-person visit requirements for Medicare patients that receive behavioral health services through telehealth are delayed
- Two governmental agencies, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) must report to Congress by June 15, 2023 on telehealth utilization and costs
|Momentum around telehealth continues to grow, and the temporary extensions will provide additional time for Congress to research telehealth and consider making telehealth flexibilities permanent. The short-term extensions ensure community health centers can continue to reach folks in the most convenient and appropriate ways and deliver high-quality care.