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Omnibus Spending Bill Increases Funding to HHS, CDC, and More

Last month, President Trump signed into law H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which will fund the federal government through September 2018. The legislation – which is referred to as the Omnibus bill because it combines all 12 annual appropriations bills into one bill – includes an additional $3.6 billion for opioid-addiction and mental-health services. The bill does not include provisions to stabilize Affordable Care Act insurance markets or industry-backed changes to the Part D program.

“This bill starts construction on the wall. It turns the Gateway decision over to the Trump administration. It funds our war on opioids. It invests in infrastructure. It funds school safety and mental health,” stated House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at a press conference. “But what this bill is ultimately about—what we fought for for so long—is finally giving our military the tools and the resources it needs to do the job.”

Specifically, the bill would provide the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) $78 billion in budget authority, which is $10 billion more than the 2017 level. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would get the largest increase in funding with a total of $3 billion, including money for researching non-addictive pain killers to address the opioid crisis.

“The devastation of the opioid crisis has touched nearly every community,” said Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). “This funding will help the National Institutes of Health develop a non-addictive painkiller – which may be the antidote to the opioid crisis. Dr. Collins has predicted that, with adequate funding, we could have a non-addictive painkiller within the next five years. This bill will also support states and communities – those on the frontlines of this epidemic – as they come up with solutions to tackle the opioid crisis.”

According to Alexander, opioid funding includes: 

  • $500 million for the NIH, including for research to develop a non-addictive pain killer. Alexander and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have introduced legislation to provide NIH with more flexible authority to conduct innovative research, including research into public health threats including the opioid crisis.
  • $1 billion for state opioid grants, which is double the amount authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation Alexander was the principal Senate sponsor of in 2016.
  • $330 million for law enforcement grant programs, including those that were authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). 

The legislation also includes funding for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to begin the transition to Cerner for its electronic health record (EHR) and $60 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. An increase in operating budget for the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is another positive provision included in the omnibus.

However, AAOS-endorsed language that would ease restrictions related to physician-owned hospitals was not included in the final bill.