CCTS Newsletter Copy
Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen
July 7, 2017
While Congress remains at an impasse over healthcare reform, legislators have quietly and diligently worked to advance the annual appropriations bills. House appropriators have thus far marked up the following bills of interest; the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration (Ag-FDA), Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), and Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations Bills. These measures continue the recent trend of federal investment in medical research and patient care programs. The House MilCon-VA bill currently calls for a funding increase of nearly $23 million for the Medical and Prosthetic Research Program while the DoD bill provides a $150 million increase for the Defense Health Program.
The annual Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS) Appropriations Bill is traditionally one of the last bills to move due to controversial and highly partisan policy disagreements. While the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is broadly supported, the bill also includes family planning provisions and sections related to the Affordable Care Act, which draw divisive positions. However, the recent investments in medical research and patient care through other bills are an encouraging sign that Congress will also increase funding for NIH and other healthcare programs funded through the LHHS bill. Congress also appears to be rejecting the administration’s more dramatic recommendations made through the FY 2018 budget request, which is a positive sign for troubling healthcare proposals, such as eliminating the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and consolidating ongoing activities within NIH.
The Senate has moved more slowly on the annual appropriations measures due in part to the current focus on healthcare reform. Presently, the Better Care Reconciliation Act is unpopular and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is struggling to identify changes that can secure the 50 votes necessary for passage. While self-imposed deadlines have regularly been breached during the health reform process, Senate Republicans remain publicly committed to passing a measure before the prolonged August recess.