publication date: Dec. 18, 2015

Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Omnibus Bill, Funding Government Through Sept. 2016, Boosting NIH Budget by $2 Billion 

 

Congress passed a $1.1 trillion government spending bill Friday morning, increasing the NIH budget by $2 billion. The measure now moves to the president’s desk for approval.

The omnibus spending bill includes a $680 billion tax cut package—which was voted on separately by the House Thursday afternoon, and passed 318 to 109. Virtually all Republican House members, 241 total, voted for the tax cut package.

The vote for the larger appropriations bill, which funds the government through Sept. 30, 2016, passed the House by 316 to 113, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats voting in favor. Ninety-five Republicans and 18 Democrats voted against.

The Senate took up the bill shortly afterwards, approving it with a 65-33 vote.

Presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against the bill; Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) voted yes. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) missed the vote on the bill.

The tax cut portion of the bill postpones two taxes set in the Affordable Care Act for two more years. One is on expensive health care insurance plans, the other, a 2.3 percent excise tax on the sale of medical devices.

The omnibus bill mandates a two-year delay on the implementation of draft recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on breast cancer mammography screening.

The task force had given a C rating to routine screening of women ages 40–49, and a B to screening women ages 50–74 every other year. The Affordable Care Act requires private insurers to cover procedures given grades of B or higher by the task force.

The bill also caps multiple procedure payment reductions to Medicare reimbursement for interpretation of advanced imaging scans performed on the same patient in the same session on the same day, according to the American College of Radiology.

In recent years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services applied a 25 percent MPPR to the professional component of these services. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the bill caps any reduction at 5 percent, the ACR says.

The votes come just before Congress’ scheduled winter recess, following weeks of pushing back deadlines and passing multiple short-term resolutions to keep the government open while leaders hashed out the larger budget deal.

“It is so important to see this proposed increase in support of life saving cancer research,” said Louis Weiner, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Dollars spent in biomedical research – and particularly cancer research—is directly associated with a decrease in the number of people who die from cancer. Therefore, the health of America is directly related to our investment in research,” Weiner said. “An increase in NIH funding will boost progress and restore the pace of discoveries.”

The full omnibus bill was made public late Tuesday night, generating praise from professional societies and research advocacy groups. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology urged Congress to pass the appropriations bill.

“The legislation includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, $119 million increase for the National Science Foundation, $279 million increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science, $41.8 million increase for Veterans Medical and Prosthetic Research, and $25 million increase for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative,” FASEB said in a statement.

“We are very pleased to see the $2 billion dollar increase for NIH in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill,” said FASEB President Parker Antin. “I appeal to scientists across the United States to contact their representatives and urge speedy passage of this essential legislation.”

Marc Casper, speaking for United for Medical Research, said, “We are very pleased with the critical funding Congress has included for NIH.

“Boosting the NIH budget to just over $32 billion is a significant increase over 2015—more than five percent—and demonstrates the strong bipartisan support for biomedical research as an engine for innovation and a pathway to hope for patients. United for Medical Research commends those members of Congress who worked tirelessly to make this possible,” said Casper, president and CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, said: “The FY16 omnibus and the tax extenders measure bring a healthy helping of glad tidings for patients with a significant boost in funding for medical research and tax provisions that will advance innovation.

“The bills help accelerate the pace of medical progress in profoundly important ways; working to defeat Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions, bringing new lifesaving treatments and ultimately cures within our reach.

“In particular, provisions in the bills that bolster funding for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, suspend the medical device excise tax and make the Research and Development tax credit permanent, signal a solid bipartisan commitment by members of Congress determined to reduce the prevalence of deadly and disabling disease, and protect the health of Americans.

“Unfortunately, funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality remains below what is necessary to address inefficiencies in health care delivery.

“Among the many congressional champions who took decisive action on behalf of patients, Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Representatives Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) merit special recognition for their extraordinary vision and leadership.

“We urge Congress to approve the package to ensure we continue to make headway in finding solutions to pressing health challenges.

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