March 31, 2014 — The Senate is preparing to vote on a bill (HR 4302) on Medicare physician reimbursements that would also fund an expiring maternal and child home visiting program for six months, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/28).
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday afternoon after three hours of debate, during which amendments will not be allowed. The House passed the bill on Thursday, and the Senate likely will approve the legislation (Goedert, Health Data Management, 3/28).
The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program was established in 2010 under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and authorized for funding through Sept. 30, 2014. The program provides grants to states to support voluntary home visit programs designed to provide parenting help to teenage parents, low-income households and other high-risk families. Program volunteers also help connect families with counseling services for domestic violence or substance misuse, medical services, shelters and other resources.
Maternal and child health advocates urged Congress to extend funding for the MIECHV Program by attaching a five-year reauthorization to legislation to change Medicare's physician reimbursement policies, known as the "doc fix."
Supporters of the home visiting program targeted the SGR efforts because it is considered to be one of the few health-related measures that lawmakers need to pass this year. Advocates have argued that waiting for other legislation -- such as the fiscal year 2015 continuing resolution, likely to be debated in August -- would lead states to start winding down their MIECHV programs either by rejecting new applicants or curtailing services to current participants (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).