Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on Sunday to fund the government through September, avoiding a shutdown of federal agencies, according to reporting from The Hill, citing two senior congressional aides.
Democratics and Republicans agreed on a bill, a $1 trillion federal spending package, that would fund the government through September and will likely go to a House vote this week. According to a summary of the 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill, the proposed spending package includes a $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for this fiscal year, through September.
The $2 billion boost for NIH contradicts President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $1.2 billion from the medical research agency in the current fiscal year.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, in a statement, “The omnibus is in sharp contrast to President Trump’s dangerous plans to steal billions from lifesaving medical research, instead increasing funding for the NIH by $2 billion.”
The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) commended Congressional leaders for finding compromise on fiscal year 2017 funding levels, specifically the increases to NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Douglas Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., AMIA president and CEO, said these funding increases will "enable important research, mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act, and provide much-needed funds to address the deepening opioid crisis."
"The $2 billion increase to NIH funding is a down payment on a wide range of activities required by 21st Century Cures, including the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, Alzheimer’s research and other efforts. Likewise additional funding to SAMHSA and the CDC will combat prescription drug abuse and the opioid epidemic," Fridsma said in a statement.
Further, Fridsma called for ongoing bipartisan leadership from Congress on 2018 spending priorities. "Specifically, Congress must continue to fund the NIH at levels authorized by 21st Century Cures, and it must ensure commensurate increases are made to ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT), FDA and AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research) budgets," he said, adding that failure to fully fund these agencies in FY 2018 "will leave one of the most promising biomedical legislative efforts of the last generation stranded and unrealized."
As reported by Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland and Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal in March, the federal budget proposal that the Trump administration announced on March 16 includes major cuts to non-defense spending, including a $15.1 billion cut to the annual budget of HHS. It also includes a provision folding AHRQ into NIH. And, the White House also proposed a $1.2 billion cut this year to NIH’s budget. The reduction is part of $18 billion in cuts that the Trump administration wants in fiscal 2017, which ends in October.
However, the funding boost for NIH in the bipartisan spending agreement sends a clear message that Democrats and Republicans in Congress prioritize funding for medical research. The 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill passed last year, calls for raising NIH funding.
The legislation allocates $77.7 billion in funding for HHS in FY2017, a $2.7 billion increase above the FY2016 level.
NIH will receive $34.1 billion and that funding hike includes $1.4 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, a $400 million increase, and $5.7 billion for the National Cancer Institute, a $475 million increase. Further, the legislation will boost spending for former President Barack Obama’s research initiatives, the Precision Medicine Initiative, which will get an increase of $120 million, and the BRAIN Initiative, which will receive an increase of $110 million.
ONC would maintain its budget of about $60 million, but there are no increases.
The proposed budget also increases funding to fight opioid addiction by 430 percent, or from $150 million to $800 million. With the proposed budget, Rural Health Care will get a $6.5 million funding increase, including $1.5 million more for telehealth for a total of $18.5 million.
According to The Hill, the legislation does not provide funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border or eliminate money for so-called sanctuary cities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration law, according to a summary provided by a senior congressional aide. “In a win for Republicans, the measure provides $1.5 billion for border security and $15 billion in additional defense funding — though it’s short the $30 billion in supplemental military funding Trump requested in his budget blueprint,” The Hill reported.
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