White House Releases FY 2018 Budget Proposal Cont.

The White House budget proposal would also overhaul the Medicaid program in order to rein in entitlement spending. Medicaid’s federal funding would be capped, which would result in $610 billion in savings over the next decade. Medicaid would be transitioned to either a block grant program or a per-capita limit. While states would receive a fixed amount of funding for Medicaid, they would be provided additional exibility in the administration of the program. The budget proposal’s handling of Medicaid mirrors the policies contained in the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), to repeal and replace Obamacare. The combined proposals would slash a total of $1.4 trillion from the Medicaid program. The budget proposal indicates the President’s interest in reforming the program regardless of whether AHCA becomes law. The President’s budget also includes a $5.8 billion cut to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), along with a two-year extension of CHIP.

While Republicans praised the President for his commitment to balancing the budget, most have distanced themselves from the budget proposal nonetheless. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including Chairman of the House Appropriations HHS Subcommittee Tom Cole (R-Okla.), have been critical of the cuts to medical research – Congress recently gave NIH a $2 million budget increase in its FY 2017 spending bill. Several Senate Republicans have also expressed opposition to how the budget handles the Medicaid program. Both leadership and rank-and-file lawmakers have been quick to stress that the White House budget is only a recommendation or suggestion. Congress is expected to reject many of the President’s proposals as lawmakers move forward with the appropriations process.

Lawmakers face a challenging timeline for passing appropriations bills under regular order by the start of FY 2018 on October 1. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he expects to begin negotiating with Democrats on topline spending levels in the near future.

Lawmakers Send ‘Dear Colleague’ in Support of NIH Funding

Fifty-seven bipartisan senators penned a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter last week urging appropriators to maintain a strong commitment to funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations process. “We urge you to consider the tremendous benefits of sustained investment in the NIH, and ask you to remember our Nation’s role as a world leader in biomedical research, and the impact this research has on patients,” the lawmakers write. The letter was sent to Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee ad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Congressional Telehealth Caucus Launched

Members of the House of Representatives have launched a coalition to bring awareness to the issue of technology use in the delivery of health care. The Congressional Telehealth Caucus will welcome input from stakeholders to educate lawmakers, particularly those outside of committees with Medicare jurisdiction, about the importance of telehealth. The four founding members of the caucus are Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Gregg Harper (R-Mass.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act (H.R. 2550) and the CONNECT for Health Act (S. 1016) were also introduced last week. Both bills would improve reimbursement for and expand the use of telehealth services. Components of the CONNECT for Health Act were included as part of the CHRONIC Care Act (S.870), which was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month.

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