Tomorrow, June 13, 2017, the process to initiate the first of the fiscal 2018 spending bills will begin with the Chairs of three Senate Appropriations subcommittees convening hearings for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (Chair, Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Chair, John Hoeven (R-ND); and Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (Chair, Richard Shelby (R-AL).
Newly sworn in Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will testify on the Administration’s Agriculture priorities including WIC funding. The Trump Administration FY 2018 budget calls for a funding level of $6.15 billion for WIC in FY 2018 coupled with a $1.0 billion rescission of unspent funds, leaving WIC with a net funding level of $5.15 billion in FY 2018.* While this funding level is significantly less than FY 2016 and 2017, we expect that it will be sufficient to meet projected caseload needs in FY 2018. This is largely because average monthly food costs are relatively flat, food cost inflation is low, cost containment strategies have helped reduce program costs, rebates are among their highest levels, and WIC participation continues to lag.
The budget also provides $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and $13.6 million for infrastructure.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee.
Also tomorrow, the House will consider the Health Credit Verification bill (H.R.2581). The legislation prevents tax credits for health insurance premiums from being paid in advance unless an individual’s citizenship or immigration status has been verified. The provisions would not take effect unless H.R. 1628, the House-passed Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) replacement legislation, is enacted. It would apply to the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits and the tax credits proposed under H.R. 1628 to replace the ACA’s credits. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill 22-16 on May 24 along party lines.
An important deadline to watch in the life of the Affordable Care Act is a June 21 deadline for insurers to submit rate applications to sell policies on Obamacare exchanges. Congress will need to act on the payment of $7 billion in cost-sharing subsidies aimed at stabilizing the individual market ahead of the deadline. Curiously, last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, (R-TX), an author of the House-passed Obamacare repeal legislation, HR-1628, reportedly called for the payments to encourage more companies to participate in the exchanges.
Senate Republicans are negotiating their own version of the health-care legislation.
*The President’s proposed FY 2018 funding level was based on an assumption that FY 2017 funding would be at the continuing resolution (CR) level rather than the level provided in the FY 2017 consolidated appropriations law (“Omnibus”) now in place. The upshot? A required technical correction to reflect the FY 2017 Omnibus. This should nevertheless leave the proposal adequate to meet caseload needs.