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  • Washington Highlights

    House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Approves Draft FY 2020 Spending Bill

    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
    Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

    The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee April 30 approved by voice vote its draft fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bill, teeing up full Committee consideration as soon as the week of May 6. Based on preliminary details, the spending package rejects many of the president’s FY 2020 budget provisions and provides increased funding for many agencies and programs impacting academic medicine.

    According to a committee-prepared summary, the bill includes $189.8 billion in discretionary funding overall for programs at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education, an increase of $11.7 billion (6.6%) above the FY 2019 enacted level. The funding total assumes that separate legislation will be enacted to raise the discretionary spending caps to the levels “deemed” by the House earlier in April [see Washington Highlights, April 12], leading Subcommittee and full Committee Ranking Members Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas) to raise concerns that the Subcommittee’s draft spending bill was premature.

    Both lawmakers, however, praised Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) for the bill’s “wise investment” in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The measure provides $41.1 billion for NIH, an increase of $2 billion (5.1%) above the FY 2019 enacted level, which Chairwoman DeLauro emphasized would allow for nearly a 5% increase for each institute and center at the NIH. Within the total, the bill fully utilizes the $492 million designated for specific NIH initiatives in the Innovation Account established in the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255). The president’s FY 2020 budget request proposed $34.4 billion for the agency [see Washington Highlights, March 15].

    The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, which the AAMC convenes, issued a statement sharing its appreciation for the Subcommittee’s “efforts to continue the exceptional commitment” to NIH, acknowledging the need to raise the discretionary spending caps, and expressing the coalition’s interest in “continuing to work with lawmakers in both chambers toward quick enactment of a bipartisan bill that provides a robust increase for NIH in FY 2020.”

    The bill also maintains the HHS salary cap at Executive Level II of the federal pay scale, rather than Executive Level V as the president had proposed. The subcommittee increased funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to $358.2 million ($20.2 million or 6% over FY 2019) and maintained it as an independent agency, rather than as a new NIH institute as proposed in the budget request.

    Additionally, the bill provides $7.6 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), nearly $475 million (6.6%) over the FY 2019 enacted level for the agency. The Subcommittee’s draft bill would provide $1.2 billion for HRSA’s health workforce programs, which includes Title VII and VIII, a $138 million (13%) increase. The draft bill also includes $30 million for HRSA graduate medical education grants for public medical schools, a $5 million (20%) increase over FY 2019. Under the HRSA Office of Rural Health, the draft bill would provide flat funding ($10 million) for the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program.

    The Committee-prepared summary also indicates that the bill includes $300 million, an increase of $35 million, for Hospital Preparedness Program formula grants.” Additionally, the bill reportedly would provide “$11 million for the National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC) and 10 existing regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers,” which currently are being supported with Ebola supplemental funding, as well as $6 million for a Regional Disaster Health Response System Demonstration Pilot.

    The draft legislation also provides increased funding for the Department of Education. According to the press release, the Federal Work Study program received $1.4 billion for FY 2020, a $304 million (2.8%) increase over FY 2019 enacted levels. The draft bill also includes language requiring the Department to provide additional information to borrowers about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) expansion that was established in the FY 2018 appropriations bill. 

    Additional details will be provided in the report to accompany the bill, which is expected to be released early in the week of May 6, in advance of the full Committee markup.