Lawmakers near deal on funds for community health centers

The Hill Issuewatch Healthcare

Funding for community health centers could finally pass in the coming week as Congress faces a new government funding deadline.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told The Hill on Friday that lawmakers “hope” to add money for the health centers to the short-term spending bill to be considered before a Feb. 8 deadline for funding the government.

Funding for the health centers, which serve millions of primarily poor people, has been delayed for months, causing uncertainty and in some cases hiring freezes or other steps.

Lawmakers are considering providing two years of funding.

In addition, a number of other health-care items could ride on the next government funding bill, or wait until a longer-term deal in a few weeks. A range of Medicare programs known as “extenders” need to be renewed, for example.

There is also the more controversial issue of actions aimed at stabilizing the ObamaCare marketplaces.

Momentum appears to be increasing for funding known as reinsurance that is aimed at reducing premiums.

Walden is backing a bill to provide the funding in the House, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been pushing for a similar measure in the Senate.

There is still some uncertainty and many conservatives deride the funding as a “bailout” of ObamaCare insurers.

Any action on ObamaCare stabilization appears more likely to wait as lawmakers try to craft a longer-term government funding deal by March.

Congressional committees are stepping up their efforts to examine the opioid epidemic.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on preventing opioid abuse through Medicare. On Thursday, the Senate health committee will hold a hearing on the effects of opioid abuse on children and families.

Later in February, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin holding hearings to examine specific legislation related to the crisis.

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