Short-term Extension of Health Center Funding
How did we get here?
Discretionary funding of $1.63 billion and mandatory funding totaling $4.0 billion were set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. On September 27, Congress passed a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown, which contained an extension of discretionary and mandatory health center funding through November 21. Congress passed another continuing resolution on November 21 that again kept the government open and extended health center funding through December 20.
On December 8, leadership from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee came to a bipartisan agreement on surprise billing legislation, which would have provided five years of level funding for community health centers. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the HELP Committee, introduced the legislation, S. 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act, in June. Although the legislation passed out of the respective committees, the bill never came up for a vote before Congress because there wasn't enough broad support for compromises on surprise billing and prescription drug prices.
What happens next?
The five-month funding extension falls far short of the five-year extension proposed in S. 1985, but the coming months may provide Congress with additional time to revisit surprise billing and develop a compromise that will offset the cost of long-term health center funding.
We are grateful for all of the health center advocates who spent time calling, emailing, visiting or hosting their Members of Congress in 2019. We will continue to work with advocates and Members of Congress in 2020 to ensure that health centers receive stable, long-term funding.