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Internists Pleased that Federal Spending Bills Fund Key Health Priorities

Call on Congress to Act on Other Critically Important Issues

Statement attributable to:
Robert McLean, MD, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (December 17, 2019) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) is encouraged that the end-of-year federal spending legislation scheduled to be voted on this week prioritizes funding of several key programs and activities to improve the health and well-being of patients. While ACP is glad to see that legislators have recognized many of the public health priorities where we have urged them to take action, it is important that Congress act promptly to address several remaining priorities that are not included, or only partially addressed, in the appropriations measures.

We are particularly encouraged that the legislation authorizes funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study gun violence and safety for the first time in decades. The key to solving any public health crisis is knowledge, and our efforts to prevent firearms-related injuries and deaths have been hampered by inadequate research. This funding is a promising first step.

We are also pleased that the bills:

  • Begin to address rising prescription drug prices by including the provisions of the CREATES Act, making it easier for patients to access generic versions of prescription medications. While this is a good initial move, more needs to be done to solve this problem. 
  • Raise the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 across the country. This will help reduce smoking and addiction to nicotine, since the overwhelming majority of adult smokers started as teenagers. We also call on Congress to enact a comprehensive ban on flavorings in all tobacco products including in electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes), and take other actions to address the growing health hazards associated with “vaping” products.
  • Fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for ten years. The research conducted by PCORI is key to getting the right treatment to the right patients for the right problem. 
  • Increases funding for the NIH, CDC, and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in FY2020.

Additionally, ACP is pleased that the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes provisions that will prevent the Department of Defense from moving forward with proposed cuts to medical and health personnel “billets” in 2020 without careful consideration. We applaud Congress for ensuring that military medical personnel end strength is left intact until there is proper review and analysis of the impact that any reductions would have. ACP is committed to supporting an adequate physician workforce in the military—for treating military personnel and their families, as well as training the next generation of military physicians.

While the bills contain many provisions that will help public health, more needs to be done:

  • Congress should pass legislation to prevent the administration’s restrictions on the Title X program from moving forward. Those restrictions greatly limit the ability of women to access reproductive and other health care services and inappropriately restricts physicians from discussing treatment options with their patients. 
  • Congress should enact legislation to address the problem of surprise medical bills that holds patients harmless without tilting the playing field to insurers at the expense of patients and their physicians.
  • Congress should enact legislation that includes many of the public health priorities that had been included in the Lower Health Care Costs Act as ACP has recommended.
  • Congress should do more to address prescription drug pricing by enacting legislation to create greater price transparency, increase competition, and allow the federal government to negotiate prices with manufacturers.
  • Congress should do more to reduce injuries and deaths from firearms. The Senate should pass the Bipartisan Background Check Act and reauthorize the Violence Against Women’s Act--which would close the “domestic violence” loophole in the background check system--as passed by the House of Representatives. 
  • Congress should ensure funding by passing the long-term reauthorization of several programs now set to expire in May 2020, including Community Health Centers (CHCs), the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program. 

In the coming year ACP is committed to working with Congress on these issues, and others, that can improve the health of our patients.

Contact: Julie Hirschhorn, (202) 261-4523, jhirschhorn@acponline.org


About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.