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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Budget Update: FY2018 Budget Not Finalized Yet, Deadline Looms

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As the March 23rd government funding deadline inches closer, members of the House and Senate continue their slow move toward a bipartisan agreement on spending levels for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018. At the time of this writing, text of the spending bill is not expected until next week and lawmakers are likely to leave town for the weekend. Congress has until March 23rd to approve a budget deal to avert another government shutdown.

Previous reports indicated that a spending bill was due to be introduced by House appropriators by Wednesday evening. Mental health and addiction advocates were waiting to see how much of the $3 billion in new money allocated for combatting the opioid epidemic would go to treatment and prevention programs authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. However, as the evening approached, it was announced there was still work to be done and that text of the bill would be unveiled over the weekend or early next week ahead of the shutdown deadline.

Of the number of provisions causing this delay in Congress, there are two of great importance to mental health and addiction advocates and organizations:

  • Stabilization of the Affordable Care Act: Members are looking to ensure the costsharing reduction subsidies for insurance plans sold on the individual marketplace. These subsidies lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income individuals who purchase insurance through an Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace exchange. Without these payments, insurers would likely be forced to significantly increase premiums or pull out of the exchanges altogether.
  • Repeal of the Johnson Amendment: This amendment – passed in 1954 – prohibits nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations from making political contributions, endorsing or opposing political candidates. Efforts to repeal this restriction originally surfaced during the tax debate last fall, but ultimately the provision did not make it into the final version of the law. Should Congress repeal the Johnson Amendment, nonprofit organizations like National Council members, religious organizations and the other would no longer be barred from participating in endorsement politics.

The National Council will continue to closely monitor the ongoing negotiations and will keep its members updated in next week’s edition of Capitol Connector.