HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Senate Passes HHS Budget

According to a recent story in AMNews, the Senate's passage of a $479 billion HHS appropriations bill, achieved the necessary majority to help override a potential presidential veto.  AMNews reports that the House and Senate expect to reach a compromise HHS bill later this month.  The Senate bill contains the following:

The Senate measure generally resembles the House version. Both would boost funding to the National Institutes of Health, prevent the president's proposed virtual elimination of the Title VII medical education loan program and increase federal community health center funding.

The president's 2008 budget proposal would reduce Title VII medical student loan assistance to $10 million from $184.7 million in 2007 and would freeze funding for community health centers at $1.99 billion. It proposes reducing the National Institutes of Health budget by $310 million (2%).

The Senate budget measure would head in the other direction. It would add $5 million (2.7%) to Title VII and $250 million (12.5%) for community health centers. It would boost NIH funding by $1 billion (3.5%).

The health center increase would allow facilities to see nearly 2 million more patients, according to Dan Hawkins, senior vice president for programs and policy at the National Assn. of Community Health Centers.

"This bill will continue the vital expansion of health centers into more medically underserved communities across the country," he said.

The NIH increase would pay for an additional 400 grants, compared with fiscal 2007 and 700 more than the president's budget.

Even the Senate bill's increase wouldn't keep pace with today's biomedical inflation rate of 3.7%. The NIH needs $1.9 billion (6.7%) annual increases from 2008 to 2010 to restore it to the spending ability it had in 2002 before a series of flat budgets, said Jon Retzlaff, director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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