Congress Controls Fates of Numerous Federal Health Programs

Community health centers, Medicare therapy caps at the forefront

With another government shutdown looming tomorrow (Thursday), the fates of several federal health programs hang in the balance of Congress’ decision.

A spending bill that passed the House Tuesday night is thought to be unlikely to make it through the Senate, but others such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) believe a deal is “closer than ever.”

Much as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was used as a bargaining chip last month, funding for over 1,400 community health care centers hang in the balance this time around. Additionally, previous limits imposed on Medicare spending on physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology could be prevented from implementation if Congress takes action.
Such measures are typically dependent upon being attached to another, larger item in a comprehensive spending bill—known as extenders, due to their ability to lengthen the period of time a measure is in effect.

Advocates are attempting to persuade lawmakers to keep these programs alive, foremost among the $3.6 billion provided annually to community health center that service about 27 million low-income Americans.

The aforementioned therapy caps are set at $2,010 for occupational therapy, and another $2,010 for the combination of physical therapy and speech-language pathology.

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