Congress is under pressure to move several major pieces of legislation prior to the end of the calendar year. Both parties appear to be prepared to take action to stabilize private health insurance, and to finalize fiscal year 2018 (FY18) appropriations before the Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 8 or shortly thereafter (which would require another short-term CR).
In addition, the House and Senate recently passed a budget resolution that enables a simple majority vote on tax reform. It is unlikely that the tax reform package will address the medical device tax; we hope it is either repealed via a stand-alone bill or included in the FY18 budget package. We have been encouraging other interested members of the alliance to make use of an action alert on our website to urge Congress to repeal the tax.
Regarding FY18 appropriations, the House passed a 12-bill omnibus (H.R.3354) on September 14 and sent it to the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed most of the individual FY18 appropriations measures, but has yet to send any bill to the Senate floor for consideration. If either the House omnibus or the 12 Senate bills were signed into law without a deal to raise the budget caps, an across-the-board cut would automatically be triggered to reconcile spending to the budget caps.
We have heard rumblings that congressional leaders are negotiating a bipartisan budget deal to raise the caps, and that this deal could be made public by Thanksgiving. That said, the need for advocacy has intensified, rather than diminished. Throughout September and October, Research!America has made the case to Congress for a budget deal and provided weekly advocacy tools to alliance members on the value of raising the caps.
On October 5, the Energy and Commerce Committee approved a federal health program reauthorization package called the Community Health And Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act of 2017 (CHAMPION Act) that would be funded in part by cutting more than $6 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). Research!America sent letters to House and Senate leadership urging Congress to preserve the PPHF.
On October 24, the House Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the role of indirect costs in supporting NIH-funded research. So far, Congress has expressed no appetite for modifying the current indirect cost formula, and in fact the current CR prevents the Administration from taking action on implementing a cap on indirect costs. We remain aware that the tide could turn, and we will continue to monitor this issue and take action as necessary.
Research!America has also weighed in with letters and action alerts opposing provisions in the Senate’s FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA): the bill would place onerous new administrative requirements on DoD-funded medical research, and the report language would compromise the integrity and effectiveness of DoD’s technology transfer program.