Safety net hospitals, community health centers, teaching hospitals and some federal health programs can breathe easy for a few weeks now that Congress agreed to a last-minute, short-term government spending deal, but trouble remains on the horizon.
Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments, funding for federally qualified health centers, money for graduate medical education and the budget for the National Health Service Corps will continue to flow until Nov. 17 under the measure, which President Joe Biden signed soon after the House and Senate approved it on Saturday. preventing a government shutdown due to commence just hours later.
The short-term appropriations law also allows the National Disaster Medical System to deploy federal workers for public health emergencies and maintains the Special Diabetes Program and Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made no headway last week with the group of House Republicans stoking the shutdown fight with demands for massive federal spending cuts. Final action on the stopgap bill unfolded swiftly on Saturday after McCarthy agreed to advance a continuing resolution that maintains fiscal 2023 spending levels while lawmakers continue working on a full-year appropriations deal.
The House passed the bill 335-91, and all but one dissenter was Republican. The upper chamber followed several hours later, with 88 senators voting in favor and nine Republicans opposed.
The reprieve will last 48 days, giving healthcare providers more time to prepare for losing funding and Congress another chance to bridge the interparty and partisan divides that nearly triggered a shutdown.
McCarthy brought the bipartisan funding bill to the floor in the face of threats to his leadership from members on the GOP's far right, who expressed outrage that he made a deal with Democrats. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) plans to offer a motion to vacate the chair, which would set up a vote on McCarthy's speakership. In exchange for enough support to win the position at the beginning of the year, McCarthy agreed to procedures that allow a single member to initiate his removal as Speaker.
Whether Gaetz and his allies follow through with this gambit, when that may occur and whether it would succeed are unpredictable, but the outcome likely would determine whether Congress can pass legislation to fund government operations and reauthorize key health programs this year.