The committee adopted 18 amendments to the subcommittee-passed bill [see Washington Highlights, June 15], the majority of which related to the separation of immigrant families at the US border. Also among the adopted amendments was a Manager’s Amendment offered by Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), which makes “technical and non-controversial changes to the bill and report,” and was approved by voice vote.
The updated bill maintains the subcommittee-approved funding level of $38.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2019, reflecting a $1.25 billion (3.4 percent) increase over the comparable FY 2018 funding level. In both the subcommittee and full committee hearings, Chairman Cole noted his view that Congress needs to build upon the $3 billion increase for NIH in FY 2018, and emphasized that he views the House committee’s spending bill “as a floor, not a ceiling for biomedical funding.” He also indicated that he is “hopeful this number can increase as the process moves forward.”
As in previous sessions, Labor-HHS Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) again commented that the Labor-HHS bill should have received a proportional increase of $5.5 billion for its FY 2019 allocation rather than the flat-funding it received. As a result, she noted that “more than 20 of NIH’s institutes will receive an increase of only 1.2 percent … That is less than inflation.”
Also maintained in the committee-approved Labor-HHS bill is a new $200 million for Graduate Medical Education (GME) through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The HRSA Title VII and Title VIII health professions programs remain largely flat-funded, with the notable exception of the House elimination of the diversity pipeline program, the Health Career Opportunity Program (HCOP).
The committee did, however, adopt new report language expressing support for “the efforts of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to explore the factors that contribute to the low participation of Black men in the medical profession” and requiring HHS to submit an action plan “to address the increasing underrepresentation of Black men in medical schools and in the medical profession.”
The adopted amendments also include an additional $2 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for medical provider education on opioid treatment ($24 million instead of the $22 million in the subcommittee-approved bill), and new report language directing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue a report within four months of the bill’s enactment, outlining “price changes of prescription drugs [net of rebates] since 2008.”
The committee rejected 31 additional amendments on a variety of issues, including an amendment offered by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and supported by Rep. DeLauro and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), that would have stricken the bill’s prohibition on research with fetal tissue.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Labor-HHS bill June 28 [see Washington Highlights June 29]. In contrast to the House-passed bill, the Senate’s bipartisan bill includes a $2 billion increase for NIH and maintains HCOP funding in FY 2019.
The Senate is expected to take up its Labor-HHS bill on the Senate floor – for the first time since 2007 – potentially as soon as the week of July 30.