Stability for Critical Health Programs

Congress must re-authorize programs critical to patients and advocates by November 17th

In a last-minute effort to avert a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, Congress passed, and the President signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at current levels through November 17th. The September 30th funding deadline also marked the expiration of authorizations for several critical health programs. While the CR temporarily extended some, including the Special Diabetes Program and community health centers, others have been forced to operate with short-term appropriations.

Let’s review some of the key health extenders that are set to expire after November 17.

The Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program, National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and community health centers are integral to improving access to primary care services, particularly in underserved and medically disadvantaged communities. The CR extends funding for these programs for 45 days. Without further action, these programs will expire after November 17 ultimately creating uncertainty and instability for the programs and the healthcare providers and communities they serve. The inability to secure long-term funding severely hampers the ability of the programs to plan effectively and continue their vital work. Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would reauthorize and provide increased funding for these key programs for several years. However, both pieces of legislation and the future of these critical programs are set to face an uphill battle as we near the November 17 deadline.

The Special Diabetes Program (SDP) encompasses two key components: the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. These programs were created to promote research for type 1 diabetes at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) and deliver essential treatment and education services for type 2 diabetes within American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The CR included a provision to extend SDP through November 17th; however, despite its remarkable achievements and widespread bipartisan backing, SDP faces a critical threat as the clock ticks down for Congress to reauthorize it again before it expires. Currently, there is legislation in the House and Senate that would reauthorize both programs at $170 million for FYs 2024-2025.

The Farm Bill sets federal policy on agriculture and nutrition policy and was due to be reauthorized on September 30th. Neither the House nor the Senate Agriculture Committees have released their versions of the Farm Bill reauthorization legislation, which makes it likely that a short-term extension will be necessary before the end of the year when the impact of expired programs will be felt. Several Senate Republicans on the Agriculture Committee have discussed adding a year-long extension of the Farm Bill to the next CR.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) authorizes the Administration for Strategic Preparedness & Response (ASPR), the division within HHS that houses pandemic preparedness programs so critical to our nation’s public health response. Given this is the first reauthorization of the program since the COVID-19 pandemic, many lessons learned were expected to be incorporated. House Republicans advanced a pair of party-line bills (H.R. 4420 & H.R. 4421) through the Energy and Commerce Committee in July, but deep partisan divisions exist about whether the FDA should be provided authorities pertaining to drug shortages, with Republicans arguing that FDA policies are not germane to the bill. The Senate bill (S. 2333) includes a couple of drug shortage policies, and with the House bill in limbo, the Senate is expected to try to muscle their bipartisan bill through Congress in a year-end funding package.

This temporary reprieve has set Congress on a tight schedule. After three weeks without a Speaker, the House finally elected Mike Johnson (R-LA) to the position, but Congress remains deeply divided and its ability to pass FY 2024 spending bills and reauthorize critical health programs before their expiration on November 17th is not certain. Another short—or medium—term CR will be required to avoid a shutdown when the current CR expires, so it is paramount for organizations and societies to engage with lawmakers to advocate for stable, long-term funding for priority programs. The urgency of the upcoming reauthorization deadline should not be understated, and advocates must proactively engage with lawmakers and impress upon them the critical need to secure the future of these essential health programs.

CRD Associates can help you make a significant impact in securing the future of these programs and, in turn, improve the health and well-being of Americans. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates as developments unfold. Should you have any questions in the meantime, please reach out to your CRD Associates contact or to [email protected].

Stay in the know

Sign up for CRD updates by email and never miss a post.