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Congress Passes Federal Budget Through September

Patti CullenBy Patti Cullen, CAE, President/CEO, Care Providers of Minnesota
March 30, 2018  |  All members

Congress acted last week to pass a major omnibus spending bill which funds the government through the end of the Federal fiscal year, September 30, 2018. Without much time to spare before the government funding lapsed at midnight on March 23rd, Congressional leaders unveiled the omnibus bill on Wednesday, a massive 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion spending bill covering everything from defense to border security to opioids. Note: In Congress, a spending bill spanning multiple budget areas is known as an “omnibus.” 

The House passed the massive $1.3 trillion spending package on Thursday. The final House vote was 256–167. A majority of members in both parties ended up backing the 2,200-page bill, despite objections that lawmakers had not had a chance to review the final measure, which was only publicly posted after 8:00 PM on Wednesday. The Senate approved the bill on a 65–32 vote after midnight on Friday morning.

Major impediments to an agreement included funding for a border wall, a New York infrastructure project, and provisions related to the Russia investigation. Republicans wanted increased funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) interior enforcement (that is, of undocumented immigrants already here, not on the border), and an increase in the number of detention beds. The House/Senate deal included 328 additional CBP officers but required ICE to cut detention beds.

The White House, at the last minute, asked for $25 billion for a border wall, which was reduced to only $1.6 billion in the deal. While Democratic leaders have appeared willing to accept an omnibus that doesn’t revive the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, other Democratic members of Congress have suggested they’d oppose any funding bill that doesn’t protect DACA. The House and Senate-passed bill does nothing on DACA. President Trump, who has offered to provide permanent protection for DACA recipients in exchange for draconian cuts to legal immigration, appeared to be frustrated that such a deal hasn’t made it into the omnibus. In addition, the bill doesn’t defund “sanctuary cities” that attempt to protect unauthorized immigrant residents from Federal immigration officials, despite President Trump’s last-minute push to defund the cities as part of the omnibus.

Here's a few highlights of what was included in the bill in the health and human services (HHS) area: 
  • Total HHS appropriation: $88 billion
  • The National Institutes of Health, which received a $3 billion boost in funding, bringing its total budget to more than $37 billion
  • Opioid addiction abatement efforts, which received $500 million to develop alternative pain medications; HHS also received $3.6 billion to fight drug abuse
  • Rural communities, which will see a hefty $135 million increase in healthcare program funding, including $100 million for drug addiction treatment and prevention
  • Telehealth in rural areas will get a boost in grants and HHS' total spending on rural communities will be $290.8 million
  • Community health centers will receive a $135 million increase over last year to expand addiction prevention and treatment services as well as access to overdose reversal drugs
  • Providers would see a quicker resolution to their Medicare appeals as Congress funnels $182 million toward reducing a backlog of more than 500,000 appeals
  • Children's providers will get a boost in their reimbursement rates under the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which got a major $2.4 billion increase over last year; the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program will get a $15 million boost to support pediatric medical training
  • Flu prevention—Congress is increasing funds to combat the flu by $218 million, a 68% boost, to improve the response to pandemic flu and ramp up research to develop a universal flu vaccine
  • The Community Development Block Grant program, a flexible Federal funding program for cities and local governments, is being nearly doubled from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion, despite Trump’s prior proposals to eliminate it

Patti Cullen, CAE – 952-851-2487 – 

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Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.

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