A December 7 funding deadline was extended to December 21 but it is not clear whether Congress and the president will reach a deal by then to fund seven departments and a number of agencies for which final appropriations have not yet been made for the current fiscal year (FY 2019). (In an unusual turn of events, the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has already been enacted.) The potential conflict is about whether Congress will provide funding for the “wall” that President Trump would like to build on the southwestern border of the U.S. in order to limit the entrance of immigrants.

While congressional leaders spar with the president over funding for the wall, the House and Senate have been at work on other legislation.

Two bills are now ready for the president’s signature:

The PREEMIE Act. On Tuesday, December 11, the House passed the Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early (“PREEMIE”) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 3029), which reauthorizes for five years programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to collect data about and improve the treatment and outcomes of premature infants, to educate providers and the public about the risk factors for having a preterm baby, and to improve maternal health. The bill was passed by the Senate in September.

The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act (H.R. 315) was passed by the Senate on December 6, 2018, after House passage in January of 2017. The bill requires the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to identify areas that have a shortage of maternity care health professionals for purposes of assigning maternity care health professionals to those areas. On December 11, the bill was transmitted to the White House for the president’s signature.

On December 11, the House passed two bills that will now move to the Senate:

The IMPROVE Act. The Improving Medicaid Programs and Opportunities for Eligible Beneficiaries Act (H.R. 7217; text), also known as the IMPROVE Act, incorporates several Medicaid bills that had been introduced earlier, most notably scaled-back versions of the ACE Kids Act and the EMPOWER Care Act. The ACE Kids Act would allow states to receive reimbursement for “health homes” to serve children with medically complex conditions in order to better coordinate their care, and is supported by the Children’s’ Hospital Association and a number of child health organizations. The House-passed version of the EMPOWER Care Act would extend for three months the Medicaid “Money Follows the Person” program, in which people transition from institutional to community-based care and is strongly supported by the disabilities community.

The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 (H.R. 1318), passed by the House on December 11, would provide funding to states and tribes to establish and improve maternal mortality review committees to investigate cases of maternal death and develop recommendations to prevent them.

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Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families—including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity—in order to improve health care services and policies for children.

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