Committee advances O’Halleran health package funding rural and tribal health programs

July 18, 2019
Contributed Columns

WASHINGTON D.C. – On Wednesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted unanimously to advance a major, bipartisan bill sponsored by Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) to the full House of Representatives for a final vote. The bill, the Reauthorizing and Extending America’s Community Health (REACH) Act – previously the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act – includes the Special Diabetes Program for Indians Reauthorization Act, which O’Halleran introduced earlier this year.

The REACH Act includes:

  • An extension of the Community Health Center Fund at $4 billion for four years.
  • An extension of the National Health Service Corps at $310 million annually for four years, which awards scholarships and loan repayment to primary care providers in eligible disciplines.
  • An extension of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which supports the training of residents in new or expanded primary care residency training programs in community-based ambulatory patient care centers. 
  • An extension of the Special Diabetes Program and expiring Medicare programs for low-income and aging populations.

“These bipartisan bills, which are on their way for a full vote in the House, are critical to the health and wellbeing of families across the country, especially those living in rural Arizona,” O’Halleran said. Community health centers serve millions of Americans in underserved areas and employ thousands of doctors, nurses, and medical staff, and reauthorizing many of these programs will ensure hardworking families, seniors, and veterans can continue receiving the lifesaving care they need.”

“I am also pleased to see the Special Diabetes Program for Indians was reauthorized today. This program, along with the Special Diabetes Program, (has) shown real results in lowering cases of diabetes across Indian Country. Since the passage of SDPI, the rates of diabetes among American Indian and Alaska Native communities have fallen by 58 percent.

“I look forward to (continuing) working with my colleagues to ensure this important funding is passed by the House of Representatives before the funding deadline at the end of the fiscal year.”

Additionally, the REACH Act includes the Hearts Act, introduced by Reps. Thompson (D-CA) and Ferguson (R-GA), which allows military disability retirees under the age of 65 to decline to enroll in Medicare Part B in situations where their Social Security Disability Insurance payments have been terminated because they are gainfully employed, as well as allow them to continue to access their TRICARE benefits. It also includes the Protecting Access to Wheelchairs Act, introduced by Reps. Larson (D-CA) and Zeldin (R-NY), which excludes complex rehabilitative manual wheelchairs from the Medicare durable medical equipment competitive bidding program.