The Obama Administration’s Fiscal Year 2012 Health and Human Services Budget — February 2011
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the principal Federal agency charged with protecting the health of all Americans. The President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012 calls for $79.9 billion in discretionary spending to support programs administered by HHS, which is slightly above the 2010 funding level. Within this level, the Department is taking on significant new responsibilities with the implementation of the Health Care Reform’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the new food safety law, as well as strengthening program integrity. Within the funds available to HHS, $6.8 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an Agency within HHS charged with increasing access to basic health care for those who are medically underserved. One of the primary goals of the HRSA budget is to improve both access to and quality of health care in rural areas, as well as increase the number of doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals — including psychologists — who practice in areas of the country with shortages of health professionals.
Regarding programs of importance to psychologists, the President’s budget contains funding within HRSA for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) Program, as well as funding for geriatric programs and within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Minority Fellowship Program and the Campus Suicide Prevention Program.
The President’s Budget is a proposal put forward by the Administration that demonstrates its vision for spending in the upcoming year and in the future. Congress is responsible for developing legislation to fund the government for the fiscal year ahead and this legislation must be passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and signed by the U.S. President.
Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program
For the third time, the President’s budget includes funding for the GPE Program. The President’s FY 2011 budget included $2.9 million for GPE (the same at the FY 2010 appropriated level). The FY 2012 budget does not propose a specific amount for GPE, but includes directive language for the number of grants to be funded and includes GPE in as part of an overall funding request of $17.945 million designated for all mental health programs authorized in the ACA. It is expected, based on the language in the Budget that funding for GPE would grow from last year’s level of $2.945 million. The budget anticipates support for 17 new grants in graduate psychology education “for the development and implementation of interdisciplinary training of psychology graduate students.”
GPE was authorized as part of the ACA last year (March 2010) at a level of $10 million. Further, thanks to strong bi-partisan support garnered by APA members who came to Capitol Hill in an effort coordinated by ED GRO, a level of $7 million — representing APA’s full request for funding — was included in the Omnibus Appropriations for FY’11. Sadly, that legislation did not become law and the government is instead being funded by a Continuing Resolution (CR) through March 4th. That being said, it is a significant victory for the GPE Program to be included for continuation in the Republican driven FY 2011 CR which included drastic reductions or elimination of hundreds of federal programs.
National Health Service Corps (NHSC)
The Budget invests $418 million in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), which includes funding mandated by the ACA, to place providers in rural regions and other medically underserved areas to improve access to needed health care services. The FY 2012 proposed funding is $270 million more than the current funding level and $13 million lower than the amount in the CR. Under the NHSC, eligible health professionals, including psychologists, agree to serve in a Health Profession Shortage Area (HPSA) in exchange for college loan forgiveness. Primary Care medical, nursing and dental students have also been eligible for the NHSC Scholarship Program of which the APA Education Government Relations Office is actively seeking the inclusion of psychology graduate students.
In FY 2010, the NHSC had field strength of 7,530 primary care clinicians. The NHSC projects that a field strength of 10,683 primary care clinicians should be available in health professional shortage areas by FY 2012 if Congress funds the program at the President’s request. Because psychologists are eligible to apply for the loan repayment program, this funding will allow increased numbers of psychologists working in underserved areas to receive monies from the NHSC.