Congress Works on Continuing Resolution Budget Deal
As Congress prepares to adjourn for campaign season, the Senate is considering a continuing resolution (CR) today that would fund the government for six months (until March 27, 2013) and was the result of an agreement between the White House and Congressional leadership to avoid a prolonged budget battle in the middle of an election. The Housepassed the CR last week. The legsilation continues funding at the current operating levels for federal agencies, with some program increases. Part of the bipartisan agreement, included the stipulation that there would be no new policy riders included, which means that the ban on federal funding for syringe programs is continued until at least March of next year.
OMB Releases Sequestration Report
As requested by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget released a report on budget cuts under sequestration to shed light on the impact of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Congress passed the Sequestration Transparency Act in August, requiring the administration to identify sequestration’s funding reductions in each agency at a program and project level. However, the OMB report instead identifies budget accounts vulnerable to sequestration, avoiding analysis of sequestration’s impact at the more granular programmatic level. Despite the lack of detail, the report adjusted some expectations, predicting an average cut in nondefense discretionary spending (NDD) of only 8.2%. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) faces the largest cut outside of defense, projected to face $6.6 billion in reduced funds, which is less than the $7 billion initially expected. Full report language can be found at online here.
HHS Developing Common Indicators for Reporting
The Office of HIV/AIDS and Infection Disease Policy (OHAIDP) has launched Phase II of a project to develop agency-wide implementation plans for streamlining HIV data collection and reducing grantee reporting burden while preserving the capacity to monitor the quality of HIV services and report on program impact nationwide. By reducing undue reporting burden grantees will free-up capacity that can be devoted to the delivery of HIV services. To make sure that the plans meaningfully address reporting concerns, constituent feedback from those most affected by the current HIV grant reporting requirements is needed. Comments are being accepted online here.
HHS Says Health Plans Cannot Discriminate Against Transgender People
In a recent letter, HHS clarified that provisions in the Affordable Care Act prohibiting sex discrimination in health insurance coverage apply to transgender people. With HHS declaring that it would be discriminatory for employers, insurers and others to deny health insurance coverage or benefits based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity,” the hope is that transgender people — those who identify with a sex other than the one they were born as — will take another step toward achieving equality in health care.
CDC Releases Final HCV Testing Recommendation
Last month, the CDC officially released its final recommendation calling for all baby boomers to be tested for hepatitis C (HCV). NMAC submitted comments in support of this recommendation back in June of this year.