Omnibus Funding Agreement Passed by Congress
Legislation prevents government shutdown, provides certainty for remainder of fiscal year
December 19, 2015 09:10 AM
On Friday, December 18, the United States Congress passed an omnibus package of legislation funding the federal government through fiscal year 2016. The agreement was announced on Wednesday, following passage of a short-term continuing resolution last week to continue funding government operations and avoid a government shutdown (see previous NAHC Report article here). On Wednesday, when government funding was once again scheduled to expire, Congress passed another short-term continuing resolution, funding the government for an additional six days through December 22, in order to provide Congress with more time to pass the omnibus package.
The U.S. Senate passed the omnibus legislation by a vote of 65-33, and the U.S. House passed the legislation by a vote of 316-113.
Unlike a continuing resolution, which simply extends current funding levels, the omnibus agreement includes adjustments to current funding levels across the federal government. The absence of certain controversial policy provisions, known as “riders,” in the funding legislation allowed for bipartisan support for the measure, even though some members of both parties opposed the package due to certain provisions.
In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House expressed support for the agreement. “The Administration appreciates the bipartisan effort to provide full-year appropriations legislation for [fiscal year] 2016 largely free of new unrelated ideological riders.”
Included in the omnibus are provisions that increase federal funding by $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $300 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; $1.35 million for NURSE Corps loan repayment and scholarship programs; and $1 million for advanced nursing education.
In addition to making adjustments to current funding levels, the omnibus agreement provides certainty regarding federal funding and precludes a government shutdown during the remainder of fiscal year 2016. This certainty is a positive for the home care and hospice community because it might allow Congress to put more focus on priority home care and hospice legislation.
The omnibus includes a specific provision that allows payment to a home health agency that furnishes a disposable negative pressure vacuum wound therapy device or certain substitute equipment, under the same category where payment is allowed for durable medical equipment. The inclusion of this provision should be a positive for the home health community, as it could provide an additional reimbursement to home health agencies that furnish these devices. While the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) supported the provision, NAHC is still waiting to see the implementation standards to ensure that the provision has the results that were intended.