July 15, 2020

House Committee Moves to Raise NIH Funding, Highlights Lung Cancer Screening Efforts

Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee advanced the FY 2021 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, on a party-line vote of 30-22.

The bill includes a total of $47 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2021, an increase of $5.5 billion (13.2%) above the FY 2020 enacted level. Within the total, the bill provides $42 billion in annual appropriations, an increase of $500 million above the FY 2020 enacted level (1.2%), as well as $5 billion in emergency appropriations available through FY 2025. $2.5 billion of the emergency funding would be distributed across NIH proportionate to each institute and center’s FY 2020 funding level. With the additional emergency funding and according to the report language, “Each Institute and Center will receive an increase of at least 7 percent over the 2020 enacted level.”

As part of the report, the Committee noted its ongoing concern regarding the high morbidity and mortality rates associated with lung cancer and highlighted the importance of early detection and treatment. To mitigate these trends, the Committee urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote lung cancer screening awareness as part of its tobacco prevention and control activities.

The American College of Radiology® (ACR®), and its Lung Cancer Screening 2.0 Committee, remain highly engaged in establishing and promoting lung cancer screening programs. The ACR Government Relations and Economics teams continue to engage lawmakers and relevant agency representatives regarding the merits of lung cancer screening and simultaneously seek to identify and promote funding opportunities for these critical programs.

Report language also included praise for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) controversial changes to outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) services in the Calendar Year 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule scheduled to take effect January 1, 2021. The Committee stated its concern that CMS’ valuation still does not accurately reflect the resources required to deliver them and would therefore be insufficient to sustain the physician workforce in many specialties, claiming it would affect Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care. Although report language is non-binding and does not have the force of law, the ACR will continue to reiterate its concern with the impending E/M cuts as the legislative process progresses.

The committee included a four-year extension (through January 1, 2025) of the current delay in implementing the 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) screening mammography recommendations as they apply to Affordable Care Act coverage and any other laws that reference the recommendations.

The committee adopted by voice vote a Manager’s Amendment introduced by Chairwoman DeLauro which included additional report language to highlight the Human Brain Cell Atlas and Human Brain Projectome projects outlined in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The Amendment also supports efforts to accelerate therapies for rare cancers and to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a SARS-CoV-2 pediatric research agenda.

The legislation is expected to be sent to the House floor for a full vote, and to pass along party lines. The Republican-controlled Senate is likely to put forth a spending package that looks very different from the House version. Any final spending package will ultimately need to be agreed to by both chambers before being signed into law by the president.