National Health Initiatives Threatened With Passing of Two Congressional Bills

Two recent acts of Congress pose serious threats to national infectious disease health initiatives.
Two recent acts of Congress pose serious threats to national infectious disease health initiatives.

On May 4, 2017, the United States House of Representatives passed two bills — H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act,1 and H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA)2 — designed to repeal and replace the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The House Appropriations Bill for 2017 was enacted on May 5, 2017, while the AHCA moved on to the Senate for consideration.

Passage of these 2 bills leaves large holes in the funding of the proposed national approach to infectious disease (ID) control.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act

The appropriations bill for 2017 approved by Congress preserved funding through the end of September for a number of national health initiatives, while cuts in other areas had implications for ID initiatives that elicited immediate reaction from a number of national health organizations.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) released a statement3 expressing gratitude to Congress for the continued support for preventing IDs and funding to multiple agencies combating antimicrobial resistance, as well as boosts to research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and provisions for a new Emergency Reserve fund to respond to ID outbreaks, although the fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding is far less than is needed. “Most ID priorities received level funding or small increases in the omnibus spending bill,” IDSA President William Powderly, MD, reported to Infectious Disease Advisor.

Further, the FY2017 appropriations bill raised serious concerns about significant reductions in funding for many proposed programs to the FY2018 budget that will enhance research by the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“While this is certainly preferable to a funding cut,” Dr Powderly said, “the reality is that our public health infrastructure and biomedical research enterprise need additional funding to protect the public from infectious disease threats such as antimicrobial resistance, vaccine-preventable diseases, and emerging infections, and to support the research and development of new antimicrobial drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests.  

In addition, we are concerned that the omnibus bill will reduce funding for CDC's vaccine programs, which is particularly worrisome given the current measles outbreak in Minnesota.” The Minnesota outbreak, which began in early May, is the largest in 27 years.4

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