House Appropriations Committee Releases FY2020 Labor-HHS Bill
The House Appropriations Committee released the text of its Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS) Appropriations bill last night. NRHA submitted testimony and requests to both the House and Senate Appropriators requesting robust support for rural health programs. While we understand the current federal budget situation, rural health discretionary spending is relatively small but is vitally important for maintaining access to care for individuals living in rural America. The rural healthy safety net programs outlined below are effective and crucial for the physical and economic health of many rural communities.
NRHA is pleased the House appropriators understood the important of these program funds and appropriated funding in line with the urgency of the needs in rural health care. While the bill text demonstrates strong support for rural programs, we are still awaiting all of the details. NRHA will continue to monitor as more details become available. We will continue to work with the House and Senate to ensure strong support of important rural health programs to solidifying the fragile rural health care infrastructure in the United States.
In total, the draft bill from the House Appropriations Committee includes $189.8 billion in discretionary funding, 11.7 billion over the 2019 enacted level.
The House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and related agencies will host a markup of the legislation at 4:00 p.m. EST today, April 30, 2019.
Rural Health Programs
Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants are used by each state to implement new technologies, strategies and plans in Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). CAHs provide essential services to a community. Their continued viability is critical for access to care and the health of the rural economy. The draft bill provides $59,000,000 dollars for these programs, a recognition of the importance of these grants and the work they allow CAHs to do.
Of the funds made available under Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants, $19,942,000 is specifically provided for the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program “for quality improvement and adoption of health information technology” and up to $1,000,000 may be used for funds “provided for grants for the purchase and implementation of telehealth services, including pilots and demonstrations on the use of electronic health records to coordinate rural veterans care between rural providers and the Department of Veterans Affairs electronic health record system.”
State Offices of Rural Health (SORH), located in all 50 states, help their individual rural communities build health care delivery systems. They accomplish this mission by collecting and disseminating information, providing technical assistance, helping to coordinate rural health interests state-wide, and by supporting efforts to improve recruitment and retention of health professionals. The Committee has appropriated $12.5 million to help the SORH improve rural health care across our country.
Further, $10,000,000 will remain available through September 30, 2022, to support the Rural Residency Development Program.
$120,000,000 will remain available for the provision of primary health services, assigning National Health Service Corps (NHSC) members to expand the delivery of substance use disorder treatment services, notwithstanding the assignment priorities and limitations under sections and making payments under the NHSC Loan Repayment Program. An additional $15,000,000 will remain available under the NHSC Loan Repayment Program to individuals participating in similar programs who provide primary health services in Indian Health Service facilities and Tribally-Operated Health Programs.
As the funding process continues, NRHA will continue to monitor all legislation relevant to rural heath and update members.