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Senate health committee leaders introduce key funding bill

This year’s healthcare package started taking shape Friday as the leaders of the Senate health committee introduced a bill that includes five years of funding for community health centers. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on the legislation on Jan. 29.

Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington laid out extensions of programs under their panel’s jurisdiction that are set to expire at the end of September.

That deadline, which also applies for Medicaid funding to the U.S. territories and the end of delays to disproportionate-share hospital payment cuts mandated by the Affordable Care Act, will drive the only healthcare package certain to pass Congress this year.

The bill also includes funding for the National Health Service Corps, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, the Special Diabetes Program at the National Institutes of Health and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

Last week, Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) proposed a five-year funding measure for community health centers that has secured an array of bipartisan co-sponsors.