After a brief government shutdown, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) was signed into law Friday, February 9. BBA contains numerous health policy provisions that will likely have long-term implications for states, providers, and patients.
Notably, the BBA added an additional four years to the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s statutory authorization. CHIP had been reauthorized for six years in January’s budget standoff, and the BBA extension ensures the program will run through September 30, 2027. This extension actually saves the federal government money because of an interaction with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate in last year’s tax package.
The BBA also includes $6 billion over two years to address the opioid epidemic. However, there may be procedural questions as to how that funding will be allocated between health and law enforcement programs, and critics argue this amount—while helpful—will not be enough.
The BBA also provides support for two programs created in the ACA. First, it includes an additional two years of support for a special fund for community health centers that supplements regular appropriations for these safety-net providers. The BBA also extends the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program through September 30, 2022. The extension requires participating states to conduct a statewide needs assessment and allows them to establish an incentive program for successful outcomes. At the same time, the BBA reduces the ACA’s Prevention Fund, which has become a common offset for other funding priorities.
Given that the BBA extends many expiring Medicare provisions and deals with many other issues such as the debt limit, several political pundits believe Congress has “cleared the deck” of major health policy debates for the remainder of the year.