Senate Committee Gives $2 Billion Boost to NIH Funding; Outlook Still Unclear – Take Action Today
On June 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Labor-HHS FY 2017 funding bill, which includes funding for most Department of Health and Human Services agencies. The bill included a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will grow NIH’s total budget to about $34 billion.
The boost to the NIH’s funding is the result of bipartisan negotiations between Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who leads the Senate subcommittee on health funding, and his counterpart, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The Endocrine Society has been a leading advocate for an NIH funding increase. We have visited many congressional offices, including during our Centennial Hill Day in April, submitted testimony, and written letters.
The Committee has not made the complete bill or summary tables available and, without the full picture on health funding, it is difficult to see what the increases really mean. For example, there is concern about whether the extra money will come from other key health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We do understand, however, that the spending bill also includes:
about $300 million for President Obama’s precision medicine initiative, an increase of about $100 million
about $126 million for the health department's opioid anti-abuse programs
about $53 million to combat antibiotic resistance
about $400 million more specifically for Alzheimer’s research
a significant increase for cancer research as it has become a top priority item for the Obama administration
Also important to note is that the bill was passed out of the full Committee with no harmful policy riders, a point that Ranking Member Patty Murray and Full Committee Vice Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) lauded about the legislation.
The Senate bill would mark the second year in a row that the NIH receives a $2 billion funding boost. Last year, the agency received its largest budget increase in 12 years. However, the outlook for NIH funding is not certain. The House of Representatives has not scheduled committee action on its version of the spending bill and with limited legislative days left in the congressional session before the elections, many expect the Congress will be unable to complete action on funding bills and will instead resort to passing a Continuing Resolution that funds the government at this year’s levels.
Take Action: It is critical that all Members of Congress hear from their constituents about the need to provide a funding increase for NIH. Join the Endocrine Society’s advocacy efforts by participating in our online campaign. All you need to do is visit our online advocacy center and submit your zip code and our system will send letters to your Representative and Senators.
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) funds research in areas that are important to endocrinologists, such as diabetes and breast cancer, and many Endocrine Society members seek funding from the DoD to support research projects in these areas. Provisions related to funding for DoD research programs are contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Recently, we were alerted to two sections (sections 756 and 898) in the FY 2017 NDAA that would severely restrict funding to DoD research programs unless the research is “directly related to active duty military.” On Tuesday, June 7, the United States Senate voted on an amendment proposed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to remove sections 756 and 898; the amendment passed with strong bipartisan support.
To influence the outcome ahead of the vote, the Endocrine Society joined with a broad coalition including 143 organizations in a letter opposing sections 756 and 898 and a social media campaign. These organizations were concerned that these restrictions would jeopardize important research projects, introduce unnecessary red tape, and negatively impact the health and well-being of the broader military community including combat veterans and military families. The coalition letter was cited by Senator Durbin in a press conference preceding the vote, and Senator Durbin retweeted the Society’s tweet in support of the amendment. We are encouraged that the Senate maintained funding for important medical research projects in the NDAA.
CMS Hosts Webinars to Educate Providers on Quality Payment Program
As reported in a previous edition of Endocrine Insider, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), now referred to as the Quality Payment Program (QPP). Although CMS is still accepting comments on the NPRM, the agency is hosting a number of webinars for providers on various components of the QPP. A schedule of webinars can be found on the CMS website, and recordings of previous webinars are also available.
We continue to analyze the NPRM and will be submitting comments on behalf of Society members.
Senate Passes Toxic Chemical Law Update, Sends it to Obama
The Senate passed by voice vote Tuesday, June 7, the House-Senate negotiated bill that represents the first update to the nation’s toxic chemical review laws in almost 40 years.
The bill (HR 2576) now heads to the president’s desk, where it is likely to be signed. The legislation has the backing of the Obama administration, which called it “a clear improvement over the current law” and “a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law.”
As reported in previous issues of Endocrine Insider, we were pleased that the compromise includes several improvements that the Endocrine Society advocated, although the legislation is weaker in other important areas, such as preemption, precluding our support of the legislation.