US House Passes Health Care Reform

The House last night voted 219-212 to adopt Senate-passed health care reform legislation, paving the way for an overhaul of the nation’s health care system after a year of debate. As part of the two-bill reconciliation strategy, the House also passed a package of “fixes” to the Senate bill with reconciliation instructions.

The bill, headed immediately to the President’s desk, includes many provisions that are important for Healthy Start coalitions, including:

  • Prevention and Wellness fund  — Provides $15 billion over 10 years ($500 million in fiscal year 2010, $750 million for fiscal year 2011 and ramping up to $2 billion in fiscal year 2015) for new Prevention and Wellness Fund.  The Fund will support programs authorized by the Public Health Service Act, such as Healthy Start, for prevention wellness and public health activities.
  • Home Visitation – Provides $1.5 billion over 5 years ($100 million in fiscal year 2010 and building up to $400 million in FY 2014) for states to provide evidence-based maternal, infant and early childhood home visitation programs.  Grantees are required to measure improvement in maternal and child health, childhood injury prevention, school readiness and achievement, crime or domestic violence, family economic self-sufficiency and coordination with community resources. States will be required to complete a needs assessment to identify communities that have few quality home visitation program and are at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes.
  • Tobacco Cessation for Pregnant Women in Medicaid – Requires States to provide Medicaid coverage for counseling and smoking cessation services to pregnant women.
  • Community Transformation Grants – Authorizes CDC to award competitive grants to state and local government agencies and community-based organizations for the implementation community preventive health activities in order to reduce chronic disease and address health disparities.
  • National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council – Establishes a council to create a national strategy and goals related to improving health through federally-supported prevention, health promotion and public health programs.
  • Diabetes Prevention — Establishes a national diabetes prevention program. The program at CDC will make grants to implement community-based diabetes prevention model sites and programs, and includes mechanisms for training, recognition, evaluation, technical assistance and research.
  • Effectiveness of Federal Health and Wellness Initiatives – Requires the Secretary of HHS to evaluate all existing Federal health and wellness initiatives, including Healthy Start and report to congress concerning the evaluation.

President Obama is expected to sign the legislation tomorrow (which is the same bill that passed the Senate in December). As part of the two-bill reconciliation strategy, the House also passed a package of “fixes” to the Senate bill with reconciliation instructions. The reconciliation package now moves to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has assured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that he has enough votes for the simple majority needed under reconciliation to clear the bill. Despite the inability to filibuster the package, Senate Republicans are still expected to employ procedural tactics and offer numerous amendments in efforts to stall the bill. The Senate will likely take up health reconciliation legislation on Tuesday with the goal of completing before the end of this week (as Easter recess begins on Friday).

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

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