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Congress and President Sign Off on Funding for Major Health Care Programs

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Allocations will keep NIH, CDC, CMS and more running for another year

Oct. 5, 2018 (ACP) – When it comes to federal fiscal matters, the American College of Physicians is breathing a sigh of relief, at least for the time being.

Not only has a government shutdown been averted, with legislation signed to keep the doors open through early December, but the president also signed legislation that funds crucial health-related agencies and programs through September 2019.

Those include the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Title VII Health Professions program. All will continue to be funded, in some cases with millions more dollars than allocated for the previous fiscal year.

ACP also found the process itself somewhat encouraging, reflecting more bipartisan cooperation than in the past, according to Jared Frost, an ACP senior associate for legislative affairs.

“The appropriations process is much further along than it was last year,” Frost said. “Congress did not pass priorities for the 2017-2018 fiscal year until well into calendar year 2018.”

This go-round, however, the president signed a combined spending bill on Sept. 28. The current fiscal year ended Sept. 30. The bill allocates spending for the departments of Defense, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. He'd earlier signed spending bills to fund the legislative branch and the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs.

In addition, the president signed a “continuing resolution” that will keep other government agencies and departments, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of State, funded and open through Dec. 7. These agencies and departments still need to be funded for the remainder of the fiscal year, however, and it's possible that the president will force a partial government shutdown at that point.

Among the health-related funding allocations:

The National Health Service Corps received $105 million in discretionary funding for substance use disorder treatment providers (the same amount as the previous fiscal year) and mandatory funding of $310 million (also the same as the previous year).

“While the $105 million does not go directly to putting primary care providers in the field,” Frost said, “it means the $310 million will not be stretched as thin in contending with substance use disorder treatment, the opioid crisis, and putting primary care providers in the field.”

The Title VII Health Professions Training in Primary Care and Training Enhancement program received $49 million. That's the same as the previous fiscal year, which had included a “much-needed” $10 million bump after many years of flat funding, Frost said.

As Dr. Ana María López, ACP's president, noted in a Sept. 13 letter to House and Senate leaders, “the College is keenly aware of the fiscal pressures facing the Congress at this time but strongly believes the United States must invest robustly in workforce and delivery system initiatives that support primary care and the public health, including programs that have a proven track record of effectiveness but also those that demonstrate the kind of innovation we need in any high-performing health care system.”

The National Institutes of Health received $39 billion in funding, a jump of $2 billion over the previous fiscal year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received $8 billion in funding, $127 million over the previous level.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality received $338 million, $4 million more than its previous yearly budget.

“AHRQ is the leading public health service agency focused on health care quality, providing the evidence-based information needed by consumers, clinicians, health plans, purchasers and policymakers to make informed health care decisions,” Frost said. “ACP works closely with AHRQ to develop clinical practice guidelines that help our members and their patients. AHRQ's funding has been targeted for complete elimination in the not-so-recent past, so it's encouraging Congress has slightly increased its funding.”

A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services program that funds the operation of health insurance exchanges received $3.7 billion, the same as the previous fiscal year.

More Information

ACP's letter to congressional leaders, outlining the College's budget priorities, is available on the ACP website.

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Back to the October 05, 2018 issue of ACP Advocate