Senate Appropriations Committee approves $164 billion funding bill

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Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $163.8 billion health and education funding bill Thursday that increases monies for medical research and the fight against opioid abuse, among other areas, for fiscal year 2017; recommends more than $1 billion in spending reductions; and totals $270 million less than fiscal year 2016.

On a 29-1 vote, the bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“This bill sets priorities for federal programs that support the health and well-being of Americans,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS).

It's the first bipartisan funding bill approved out of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee in seven years, according to Sen. Roy Blunt, who chairs the subcommittee. The measure includes $161.9 billion in discretionary funding and a $1.96 billion in cap adjustment funding, which is a $437 million increase, designed to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and improper payments in the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.

Other highlights:

The National Institutes of Health would receive $34 billion, an increase of $2 billion over fiscal year 2016, including:

  • $1.39 billion for Alzheimer's disease research, an increase of $400 million over last year.
  • $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million.
  • $250 million, an increase of $100 million, for the BRAIN Initiative, which has the goal of developing a more complete understanding of brain function and has the possibility of helping those who have Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, depression, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.
  • $463 million, an increase of $50 million, to combat antibiotic resistance by expanding efforts to develop new antibiotics, creating rapid diagnostic tests and building a national genome sequence database on all reported resistant human infections.

Treatment and prevention programs for opioids and heroin abuse offered through the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Health Resources and Services Administration would receive $261 million, a 93% funding increase over last year's level.

A 2016 effort to establish a consortium or consortia of states to analyze and develop frameworks for reciprocity or other forms of portability for certain occupational licenses would be continued with $8.5 million in support.

The Wage and Hour division of the Department of Labor would receive $227.5 million to enforce federal labor laws, including those covering the minimum wage and overtime.

Also, a new provision in the bill requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cover patient-centered comprehensive Alzheimer's disease care planning services.

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