News from the Hill: June 16, 2017
Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen
June 16, 2017
With the narrow passage of the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) by the House, all eyes turned to the Senate for guidance on any subsequent steps to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The House proposal was met with strong condemnation by physician societies and patient organizations due to the lack of costs controls and protections for individuals with chronic diseases. These criticisms were compounded when the Congressional Budget Office announced that the AHCA would throw millions of Americans off of coverage and possibly increase premiums further.
There is an expectation that the Senate will craft a more patient-friendly proposal, but the lack of details thus far has led to concern in the stakeholder community that the Senate effort may be similar to the House bill. The Senate enacted a self-imposed deadline to put a proposal forward before the July 4th recess, and patient and professional stakeholders have been vigorously advocating in support of robust coverage and mandated protections ahead of that date.
In the first tangible rejection of the administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request to Congress, the House Appropriations Committee approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) appropriations bill. Where the president had called for deep cuts to patient care and research programs, the FY 2018 House MilCon-VA bill provides:
- $45.9 billion for VA Medical Services, an increase of $362.5 million over FY2017.
- $698 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research Program, an increase of $22.8 million over FY 2017.
This is a strong indication that Congress will continue to invest in medical research during the FY 2018 funding cycle. However, the process to ensure the National Institutes of Health and other agencies receive meaningful funding increases will be long, politically complicated, and require strong constituent advocacy.