By Amy Haddad, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP)
The second half of the 117th Congress in 2022 ended as so many have before it. Negotiations on an end-of-year spending and legislative package could only be resolved when there was a looming threat to keep Members of Congress in Washington, D.C., through Christmas. In the end, however, an FY23 Omnibus bill was passed, and maternal and child health (MCH) advocates scored several wins to be proud of. These accomplishments include but are not limited to the following:
- $822.7 million for the Title V MCH Block Grant, which represents an increase of $75 million
- $145 million for Healthy Start, an increase of $13.16 million
- $108 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Safe Motherhood and Infant Health, an increase of $25 million
- $23 million for CDC’s Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies, an increase of $10 million
Program Authorizations and Other Provisions
In addition to the behavioral health policy successes described in Jessica Simon’s article in this issue of Pulse, here are some highlights:
- Congress made permanent the state option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to a minimum of one year postpartum.
- Congress passed the five-year reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which included a robust increase in funding.
- All states must now provide 12 months of continuous enrollment for children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which extends important protections for pregnant people in their workplaces.
- PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, to strengthen workplace protections for lactating people.
Most of the public health advocacy community anticipates that the shift in House leadership from a slim Democratic majority to a slim Republican majority will require the MCH community to be playing a lot of defense this Congress. A high priority for the new Congress is oversight of federal programs, particularly in response to COVID-19. AMCHP anticipates a significant number of hearings and investigations that will scrutinize public health programs. The new House majority has also signaled a desire to roll back reproductive health access. Although the Senate, which maintains a slim Democratic majority, is unlikely to concur, the MCH community recognizes that the highly visible attacks on abortion, birth control, and other reproductive health care are a direct threat to reproductive health access and reproductive justice.
However, that doesn’t mean AMCHP has given up. On the contrary, the resolve of the public health community at large is strengthened to work together under the banner of a rising tide lifts all boats. At a minimum, the public health community will advocate to prevent cuts to discretionary health programs and also continue to advocate against the continuous underfunding of public health in the United States. From AMCHP’s perspective, we must persist with our appropriations for critical MCH programs as well as for the broader public health programs that are foundational to much of the work our members and we engage in. AMCHP will also seek new partnership opportunities to bolster our opportunities to achieve legislative success.