House Spending Bill Boosts Medical Research but Cuts HHS Overall

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By Jeannie Baumann and Alex Ruoff

Republican appropriators rejected President Donald Trump’s plan to cut medical research funding, giving the NIH a $1.1 billion increase while cutting overall HHS spending by more than half a billion and defunding Obamacare.

The House Appropriations Committee released July 12 its draft bill for labor-health and human services, and education programs. It is the last of the 12 spending plans to be released by the committee and comes out one day before the labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee is expected to hold a markup of the bill. The draft bill would prohibit the use of any new discretionary funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.

“This bill reflects Republican priorities to cut spending and focus investments in programs our people need the most—public health and medical research, biodefense, fundamental education, and proven programs that increase job growth, for example,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a July 12 statement. “It also includes important provisions to stop government overreach.”

The National Institutes of Health emerged as the clear winner of the labor-HHS spending package.

The White House’s proposed budget recommended cutting the agency’s budget to about $26.6 billion, but the House appropriators instead offered $8.6 billion above the president’s budget request. Under the House plan, the NIH’s budget would increase to $35.2 billion in the 2018 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Overall Spending Cuts

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget would fall to $77.6 billion overall, a decrease of $542 million from last year’s enacted level and $14.5 billion above the president’s budget request. Labor and education programs would realize much steeper cuts as the overall labor-health spending portfolio would fall by $5 billion.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the labor-health panel in Appropriations, applauded the NIH increase but said the Republican spending plan would cut millions of dollars for programs for mental health and substance abuse prevention, eliminate the Minority HIV/AIDS initiative, and cut the Community Services Block Grant program.

“Budgets reflect our values,” DeLauro said in a statement, "[T]his bill is an assault on American workers, public health, and students.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla), chairman of the labor-health panel, told Bloomberg BNA the NIH “is one of our priorities. We want to keep supporting the work they do.”

House appropriators also rejected the Trump administration’s plan to cut the administrative costs tied to research grants at the NIH. Universities decried the proposal as a plan that could shutter research programs across the country. Cole told Bloomberg BNA July 11 the health appropriations panel will examine the issue in the fall.

“We’re going to tread very lightly there because I think you could do a lot of damage to the biomedical infrastructure of the country,” Cole said.

NIH Policy Proposals Also Rejected

Appropriators also appeared to reject another Trump administration proposal to fold the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality into the NIH and close the NIH’s international center. The House spending plan provides $300 million for AHRQ, which is $24 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The draft bill also prohibits funds for the n avigators program to help consumers enroll in health insurance through the Obamacare marketplace. It also prohibits the collection of user fees from the health insurance exchanges.

The House’s spending package also includes:

  •  $3.5 billion for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is $219 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $137 million below the fiscal year 2018 request;
  •  $7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is $198 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and includes $1.45 billion for CDC’s Public Health Preparedness and Response programs—an increase of $45 million; and
  •  $3.5 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at $3.5 billion, which is $306 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $68 million above the president’s request.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bna.com; Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at RKubetin@bna.com

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