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Hearing Explores President’s FY 2015 Request for NIH, Health Professions Workforce

March 14, 2014—Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius March 13 testified at a House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2015 [see Washington Highlights, March 7, 2014].

The hearing explored the president’s proposals for programs such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII health professions programs, and the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME), as well as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152).

In her opening remarks, Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) noted that Congress has cut non-defense discretionary spending (NDD) to historic lows, adding that the Labor-HHS bill in particular has been cut nearly 15 percent in the last decade. She said, “in real-life terms, what we are really talking about here is less money for education, less money for scientific research, and less money for public health investments, among other critical priorities across the Labor-HHS bill. We are not doing more with less. We are doing less with less.”

Rep. DeLauro said the FY 2014 spending bill reversed only some “of the deep and indiscriminate sequester cuts,” and while she was “pleased” to see a modest increase for NIH, she said the subcommittee still has “a long way to go.” Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) echoed her concern and noted one of her “top priorities is to increase investments in the National Institutes of Health.” Rep. Lowey warned of the government-wide “innovation deficit” and said “we cannot afford flat budgets that hamper innovation. It is imperative we increase investments at the NIH.”

Rep. Andy Harris, M.D., (R-Md.) also expressed concern about the NIH budget. In particular, he said the administration’s proposal to increase the Public Health Service Evaluation tap from 2.5 percent to 3 percent would cut NIH by an additional $150 million, taking away from money that could be spent on research in “critical” areas. When asked why none of the tap money goes back to NIH, the secretary noted Congress can appropriate the tap funding as they see fit.

Rep. Lowey noted she has “significant concerns” with a number of proposed reductions, including the proposed elimination of the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program. She said too many other “vital initiatives would receive stagnant funding, in some cases below the levels were two years ago.”

Since the president’s budget proposes to eliminate the Title VII Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) and the Title VII Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) program, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) asked Secretary Sebelius for the administration’s rationale in “eliminating proven workforce diversity programs.”

In response, the secretary noted investments in other workforce programs that will improve diversity, citing increases to the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) as one of these efforts. However, Rep. Roybal-Allard expressed concern that programs such as the NHSC only address current providers and the administration is eliminating programs that recruit minority providers and build a pipeline of future health care providers, which she added will be “so critical in the future.”

Other members of the subcommittee questioned the cost of and progress in implementing the ACA, cost of plans, eligibility, and potential adverse effects of implementing the exchanges.


Alexandra Khalife
Legislative Analyst
Telephone: 202-828-0418


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