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CCTS Newsletter | February 21st, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Andres Bachelet
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Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen

February 16, 2018


The beginning of February was a productive and hectic time for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Following months of protracted negotiations, lawmakers reached a bipartisan budget deal. The now-enacted measure included:

·         Significant increases to both the defense and non-defense spending caps for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and FY 2019.

·         A Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep federal programs operating until March 23rd as lawmakers spend the time in the interim using the enhanced spending authority to finalize the annual appropriations bills for FY 2018.

·         An extension of the debt ceiling through March 2nd of 2019.

·         A ten year (total) extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; an extension of funding for Community Health Centers, Teaching Health Centers, and the National Health Service Corps; and $3 billion for FY 2018 and $3 billion for FY2019 to fight the opioid epidemic.


The breakthrough on the congressional spending deal happened to coincide with the release of the administration’s non-binding FY 2019 budget request to Congress, and the two points of view are far from alignment. As Congress works to add funding for medical research and patient care programs, the administration once again calls for steep cuts. While the budget request calls for significant new funding to combat opioids, cuts are made in other areas. The proposal again eliminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and consolidates activities within the National Institutes of Health, which would now have three new Institutes. Further, a recommendation is made to reduce the cost of research by capping the percentage of an investigator’s salary that can be paid with grant funds at $152,000. Deep cuts are also proposed for entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, along with “reforms” that would further undermine patient access to care.


Members of Congress from both parties were quick to comment that the budget request is largely ceremonially. Key congressional leaders added that their current priority is completing the FY 2018 appropriations process and enacting funding increases for the National Institutes of Health and related agencies. Only after the FY 2018 process is complete, will lawmakers quickly pivot to FY 2019 appropriations (which should be relatively smooth considering the budget deal in place).