Commitments to Critical Health Issues Reflected in President Obama’s Final Budget
Yesterday, President Obama forwarded his final budget for funding the federal government to Congress. Each of the president’s budgets in past years demonstrated a commitment to address the HIV & AIDS epidemic and this year was no different. One of the few increases in health spending was allocated to the Ryan White Care program, which meets the health care needs of over 500,000 low-income, uninsured and underinsured individuals with HIV each year. The modest $9 million increase would bring the overall program funding to $2.3 billion. The additional resources would fund a new demonstration project focused on testing for Hepatitis C and to assist with care and treatment of individuals co-infected with HIV.
Preventing new cases of HIV has been a top priority for the Obama administration, and a centerpiece of the National HIV & AIDS Strategy. Under the budget, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide $20 million to fund a demonstration project to expand access and improve utilization of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among persons at substantial risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. Health departments receiving the awards would have the opportunity to use a portion of the funds to pay for PrEP medications.
In general, decreases in spending send us scrambling to understand why. In the case of sexual health education and funding for the abstinence-only-until-marriage program, zero is the number that matters. This year, we are extremely pleased that the administration eliminated funding for the ineffective, and often discriminatory, program.
The proposal included several new initiatives to address pressing healthcare issues like the growing opioid epidemic, access to mental health services and drug pricing.
The growing opioid epidemic has ravaged individuals and families across the nation. Deaths involving opioids, a class of drugs that include prescription pain relievers and heroin, have quadrupled between 2002 and 2014, claiming the lives of 78 Americans each day. The FY17 budget includes a new $1 billion two‐year initiative to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
The administration has also made mental health a top priority. One in five American adults experience a mental health issue at some point in their life, yet millions do not receive the care they need. To help reach individuals with serious mental illness and help them get the care they need, the budget provides $500 million in new mandatory funding. The resources would also be used to improve access to care and expand the behavioral health workforce.
Finally, the budget proposes aggressive steps to address price gouging by drug manufacturers. HRC has been a vocal critic of the random and exponential price increases by Turing Pharmaceuticals and the company’s disregard for vulnerable patients. We applaud the president and the Secretary of Health & Human Services Sylvia Burwell for including these common sense and cost-saving proposals to stem such practices:
- Prohibiting anticompetitive pay‐for‐delay agreements between branded and generic pharmaceutical companies. This proposal increases the availability of generic drugs and biologics by authorizing the Federal Trade Commission to stop companies from entering into anticompetitive agreements, which blocks consumer access to safe and effective genetics.
- Increasing competition for biological products by reducing the number of years (from 12 to 7) that a drug company has exclusivity or monopoly pricing power and prohibiting additional years of exclusivity due to minor formulation changes.
- Requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to publicly disclose production costs, including research and development investments, and discounts to various payers for specific high‐cost drugs that the secretary identifies through regulation based on the public’s interest.
We are continuing to comb through the president’s proposal and will closely monitor how Congress proceeds in developing the spending proposals for the coming fiscal year. Stay tuned to our blog for updates.