As you have likely heard, the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal was not brought for a vote last week, as proponents were not able to obtain enough support. The Brookings Institute has published an analysis that the proposal would result in approximately 21 million people losing health insurance coverage annually between 2020-2026. Despite the lack of a vote, this proposal has not been set aside, though the focus of the Senate now shifts to passing a budget resolution and addressing tax reform.
Even so, negotiations have resumed in the Senate HELP committee between Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) on a potential bipartisan bill to address pressing issues in the healthcare marketplace. We will continue to monitor these issues, as we anticipate that efforts will eventually resume to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Thank you for weighing in on this debate, and working to protect critical healthcare legislation for the WIC community.
You may also have heard that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned on Friday amid criticism of his use of government funds for chartered planes. Dr. Don Wright, previously the Acting Assistant Secretary and 10-year employee of HHS, has been named Acting Secretary. Several names have been proposed to replace Secretary Price, including Dr. Wright.
President Trump nominated Michael Dourson to lead the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Among other roles, this office is responsible for monitoring the levels of pesticides in food, and preventing and reducing environmental pollution from toxic substances. A clean environment and a safe food supply are key to achieving the goals of the WIC program.
Mr. Dourson has previously led an industry group fighting for weaker protections on food chemicals from pesticides to perchlorate – both a naturally occurring and manufactured chemical commonly used in rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches and signal flares and is naturally occurring in some fertilizers. In 2011, the EPA found perchlorate may have an adverse effect on health and is known to occur in public drinking water systems with a frequency and at levels that present a public health concern. Environment advocates argue these roles cast doubt on his ability to fulfill the duties of the EPA role in an unbiased manner.
You may voice concerns about this nomination, by contacting the offices of Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tom Carper (D-DE), Chair and Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, respectively. Their D.C. offices numbers are: Senator Barrasso 202-224-6441, and Senator Carper: 202-224-2441.
Budget Resolution and Tax Reform
Last week, the Senate Budget Committee released its fiscal 2018 budget plan, making way for tax reform. The Senate budget resolution calls on one committee--for now—to find $1 billion in mandatory cuts over 10 years, but will reduce overall spending by $5.1 trillion, including a reduction of $632 billion in non-defense discretionary spending (the category that would include funding for WIC). In comparison, the House budget calls for $203 billion in mandatory cuts, and would achieve $6.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. Both budget plans will likely have an adverse impact on overall discretionary funding levels which going forward could potentially impact WIC. Other programs that support the WIC community may see cuts, escecially SNAP and Medicaid. We continue to monitor this process and will provide updates.