Congressional Budget Deal Passed, Paving Way for Appropriations Bills in Fall

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ACP is hopeful more funding will be available for health care agencies, public health and medical research priorities

Sept. 6, 2019 (ACP) – Budget wrangling in the nation's capital over the summer produced some good news for physicians and patients. A federal government shutdown is less likely, and more money is expected to be available for American College of Physicians priorities such as public health, medical research and drug abuse programs.

But that doesn't mean ACP advocacy stops. ACP will continue putting pressure on Congress as it passes bills that will determine spending in the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. “ACP is working both individually and within coalitions to make sure that our funding priorities move forward,” said Jared Frost, ACP's senior associate for legislative affairs.

The budget deal reached in Congress before the August recess and signed by the president temporarily suspended the nation's debt limit and boosted caps on federal spending for two years. “The agreement would eliminate the dual fiscal crises that have long been hanging over Washington – an unprecedented default on U.S. debt and massive across-the-board spending cuts that could paralyze key agencies,” reported Politico before the deal became final.

As Frost explained, the deal raises the spending cap on nondefense discretionary (optional) spending from $605 billion in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $632 billion in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. “That means there will be more funding available overall for ACP priorities such as Title VII programs (Primary Care Training), the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, substance use disorder programs, and – hopefully – gun violence prevention research.”

However, Frost said, there are $77 billion in “offsets” – cuts to make up for increases in spending – and a two percent Medicare payment reduction will continue through fiscal year 2028-2029.

The Senate is now drafting 12 spending bills. “In September, the Senate will move the bills forward to the floor for votes,” Frost said. “The House has already passed its 12 appropriations bills, so the House and Senate will then have to negotiate the 12 bills so that they are the same.”

This process could take time, he said, and parts of the federal government that are unfunded past Oct. 1 would shut down unless Congress acts to keep them open. Funding for certain health programs could be affected.

As a result of the summer budget deal, “a shutdown or partial shutdown is still possible, but hopefully less likely,” Frost said. “There is more of a chance that Congress would pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded until it can pass the 12 appropriations bills into law.”

Meanwhile, ACP will continue its advocacy and inform members about important steps in the budget process. As the next step in the process, the Senate Appropriations Committee just announced that on Sept. 10 a subcommittee will mark up a spending bill that impacts many of ACP's priorities, for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. “We are ready to act to make our voice heard as the budgeting process continues,” Frost said. “And we continue to advocate for funding for new initiatives, such as gun violence prevention, and for preserving and expanding programs such as Title X funding for family planning.”

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