Internists encouraged by increased funds for healthcare programs in spending bill
Washington, DC (March 23, 2018) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) is encouraged that the spending bill passed by Congress meets many of our priorities for federal health care programs. The fiscal year 2018 spending bill, as passed, will result in health policy gains for physicians and our patients.
Specifically, we were glad to see that the bill includes substantial funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). We were especially glad to see that a portion of that money is dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic. This program is a crucial piece of providing health care services in rural and medically underserved areas; we need to be sure that people living in those areas have adequate access to substance use disorder treatments and services.
ACP was pleased that in addition to the NHSC funding dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis, Congress also included increases in other programs for prevention, treatment, surveillance and mental health that will allow us to better deal with this pressing issue. We are especially encouraged that funding for Opioid State Targeted Response Grants has been tripled. This grant program helps support state efforts to better integrate behavioral health and primary care and improve access to substance use disorder treatment, including medication assisted treatment.
ACP was also glad to see that Community Health Centers received such a large increase in funding, over $200 million more than in the previous fiscal year, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality all received sizeable increases in funding. The bill increased funding for primary care training programs by $10 million; an important acknowledgement of the critical role that primary care physicians play in the front lines of health care.
While we were also encouraged to see that Congress made a rudimentary first step towards addressing the issue of firearms violence prevention. However, the measures included in this bill fail to do what needs to be done to truly begin to combat the public health epidemic of firearms injuries and violence in our country. ACP is hopeful that the clarifying language that was included regarding research into the causes of firearms violence will open the door to the CDC and other federal agencies to conduct research on the prevention of firearms-related injuries and deaths; however the bill falls far short in not providing specific funding for this purpose. Further, while we support the provisions of the Fix NICS Act, which were included in this bill, to help strengthen the background check system by requiring federal agencies to improve their reporting standards and encouraging states to do the same; we believe that more needs to be done. We call on Congress to pass the Brady Background Check Expansion Act, which would close large loopholes in our background check system. In a recent letter to Congress, ACP communicated our comprehensive recommendations about what can be done to help keep our communities safer. We need to do far more than the small changes that Congress included in the spending bill.
ACP continues to call on Congress to uphold their promises to America's Dreamers, many who are medical students and resident physicians, by taking take immediate action to ensure that current and future Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals eligible-recipients are allowed to continue their studies and employment without fear of deportation, and to carve out a road to permanent citizenship. While the courts have temporarily stopped potential deportations of Dreamers, without a permanent solution their livelihoods and their futures remain in jeopardy.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.