Thanks to Katie McDonald – our UAND Delegate for passing this along!
Current Situation-Getting Off the Cliff
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 passed both chambers of Congress this week and is expected to be signed by President Obama. There still is no entitlement reform or sequestration (funding cuts) included in this bill. These will need to be addressed by end of March. The Bill that passed has some wins and losses for us. The biggest loss is the Farm Bill Extension that was included. Bowing to the media focus on milk prices, Senator McConnell chose to provide only dairy support and a few other changes rather than using the Farm Bill passed by the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. The Farm Bill provided long term solutions to dairy farmers and other needed agricultural changes. The language in the Act is viewed very short term by the bipartisan House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders and thought to be unfair to dairy farmers and consumers.
Changes Ahead for Our Members
Funding for programs important to our members in the Farm Bill Extension section is reduced. Most notable is the 30% reduction of SNAP-Ed, an effective nutrition education program that employs many of our members. Funding for the Specialty Crops and Seniors Farmers Market is uncertain with the changes in the bill and could impact our members and the clients they serve.
On the HHS side, the 26.5% cut in Medicare reimbursement (doc fix) mandated by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula was averted. This will be viewed as good news for our members receiving Medicare reimbursement. However there still needs to be a long term solution. We will need to continue our efforts on providing outcomes to assure fair coverage when this is finally resolved. Evidence on the effectiveness of our services will be key to our coverage efforts. There will be offsets that will made in reductions to hospitals and dialysis centers.
The Extension of Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 diabetes and for Indians which funds research for these targeted groups has been maintained. Many of our members work in this program and success stories are reported at: http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/advocacy/the-special-diabetes-program.pdf.
Congregate dining and home delivered meals programs will retain funding for the next two months which is good news. Our efforts for passing an effective Older Americans Act become more crucial in this Congress.
WIC is still uncertain but will probably be a focus in sequestration.
There is an opportunity for us with the establishment of the Commission on Long-Term Care included in the bill. We are already working with leaders in the aging communities on selection of members to this high level and influential committee.
Although we are off the cliff for today, we know we will have several areas of focus in the next few months. Sequestration will mean reductions for our members’ programs and services. We need to advocate that reductions are done fairly and with vision. It is important that our members understand the impact of this situation and respond to action alerts. We anticipate that the 113th Congress will have some serious work ahead and we will support their work.
In the next few weeks we will:
- Digest and communicate with our members the full impact of the Tax Act for them.
- Identify our strategies for policy efforts with the 113th Congress.
- Build relationships with our Congressional champions.
- Work with our internal partners to identify reachable legislative and public policy goals to expand opportunities for our members.
Mary Pat Raimondi MS, RD
Vice President – Strategic Policy and Partnerships
Jeanne Blankenship MS, RD
Vice President – Policy Initiatives and Advocacy