- Congress buys more time to finalize spending bills, new deadline is November 21st.
- Newly re-established USDA Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development has new leadership sworn in
- Congress is considering a new proposal to lower prescription drug prices.
- Tariffs imposed by the U.S. and China are beginning to affect the economy and families’ bottom line.
- Many families lack health insurance – even though they’re eligible for free or affordable plans.
Before Congress left for a two-week Recess (from which they return October 15th) they successfully passed the continuing resolution we discussed in our last Advocacy Update. The President signed the bill into law a few hours later. This “CR” funds the federal government at a flat level from FY2019 levels until November 21st, allowing more time for the House and Senate to agree on final spending levels. Observers and pundits are projecting that this may be the first of many CR’s to buy more time. Some are even beginning to project that FY 2020 may be funded entirely by a continuing resolution that allows for no increased spending. The fact that Congress is currently at home in their districts, coupled with the recent news of potential impeachment proceedings, has thrown the possibility of a timely resolution into doubt. When Congress returns from its Recess, we will begin to see how the legislative landscape will be impacted.
Donald LaVoy has been sworn in as the new Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture. Deputy Undersecretary LaVoy has 22 years of experience at HUD, working on economic development and affordable housing. His appointment marks the first permanent leadership of the newly re-established “Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development”. Congress mandated that USDA recreate this office through the 2018 Farm Bill.
Congress, divided on many issues, is largely in agreement on the need to lower drug prices. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unveiled a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs, part of a broader undertaking to address health-care costs. The recently introduced House Democratic bill follows a related bill in the Senate that received limited bipartisan support in its committee of origin, and for which the President lobbied. Any of these bills will need support from both parties in Congress and President Trump’s signature to become law. As mentioned above with the appropriations news, with the spotlight on the possibility of impeachment proceedings prospects for bipartisan cooperation on other issues are uncertain.
The economy appears to be feeling the impact of the tariffs against and from China. New data shows the farm and manufacturing sectors on the verge of a recession, as China has retaliated against U.S. tariffs and priced many U.S. goods out of the Chinese market. Additional tariffs, delayed through the holiday shopping season, will go into effect December 15th and cover an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports. Retailers will need to pay more for imported goods, and raise the price shoppers pay for a wide range of goods. Low-income families often find themselves low on cash between the holidays and tax refund season; these wider economic forces would put additional strain on these families’ finances. If this scenario has the effects projected, we can expect to see more people in need of the services of our Network.
New census data shows the uninsured rate increased from 7.9% to 8.5% last year – the first significant increase in almost a decade. The increase brings the number of uninsured Americans to nearly 28 million. That’s despite the fact more than half the uninsured population is eligible for free or reduced-cost insurance. A large drop in low-income people insured through Medicaid drove much of the increase. A recent study indicates that 67% of uninsured Americans didn’t go to the marketplace to examine their options. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has scaled back outreach in recent years, and this has been cited as the cause of the drop in the insured rate. A robust outreach effort by state and local governments, hospitals, and community groups, geared towards helping families access programs they’re already eligible for, could go a long way in helping families receive healthcare.