Labor-HHS Appropriations Bills a Win/Lose for the Nation’s Health, Says American Heart Association

July 01, 2015 Categories: Advocacy News

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2015 – The American Heart Association said today that the House and Senate FY 2016 funding bills for Labor, HHS and Education are a win/lose for the nation’s heart health. One of the chief winners is research funding – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive $2 billion over the agency’s current funding in the Senate version, and a $1.1 billion increase in the House bill. 

“We are very pleased with the NIH funding increase included in the Senate’s bill,” said American Heart Association President Mark Creager, M.D. “This boost would help to advance the heart health of all Americans, specifically the one in three adults who are suffering from cardiovascular disease – our nation’s No. 1 and most costly killer.  We call on Congress to include the Senate Appropriations Committee funding level for the NIH in the final bill.”

The House and Senate committees differed on the proposed appropriation for the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC). Total funding for the agency was $7 billion in the House bill; the Senate proposed $6.7 billion. Support for heart and stroke programs under CDC was similarly disproportionate: 

  • CDC heart disease and stroke prevention received a significant $40 million increase from the House, the President’s budget and the current funding level, but the Senate provided no increase and appropriated about $130 million. 
  • The CDC’s tobacco control program was cut about 50 percent in the House bill, while the Senate maintained the same funding level as last year.
  • Support for the Partnerships to Improve Community Health was completely eliminated in both the House and Senate bills.

“Prevention resources are a key factor in the fight against heart disease and stroke,” said Creager. “This CDC program helps supply these services and we hope the final spending bill contains the House funding recommendations.” 

Once again this year, President Obama requested that HRSA’s Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program be eliminated. The Senate Appropriations Committee, unfortunately, concurred with the president, but the House Appropriations Committee provided $4.5 million to the program. Immediate use of AEDs and CPR can more than double the chance of surviving cardiac arrest, which strikes nearly 1,000 Americans every day outside of a hospital setting. The association implores Congress to adopt the House recommendation in support of this program. 

Additionally, federal support for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) was completely abolished by the House legislation. The Senate did provide some support, but at a decrease from current funding. AHRQ-funded research is utilized by hospitals, health departments and communities nationwide to make our health care system less complex and costly, and we encourage Congress to accept the Senate’s proposed funding. 

Another loss for American’s heart health were policy riders attached to both bills which place burdensome restrictions on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. Some highlights: 

  • Both bills would limit the guidelines to just diet and nutrient intake recommendations, removing important recommendations for lifestyle behaviors that relate to healthy eating, such as physical activity.
  • House legislation would prohibit updated recommendations unless the scientific evidence that supported them was formally rated as “Grade 1: Strong,” which could force USDA/HHS to maintain guidelines based on outdated science and remove important ones for heart-healthy diets. 
  • The House bill would also require another public comment period, delaying the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines have already been commented on and gone through a rigorous review. 

In addition, the House bill directs the CDC not to undertake activities that would promote sodium reduction below 3,000 mg per day until the science surrounding healthy, safe sodium intake and the impact of lower sodium on blood pressure is formally considered. 

“The science on sodium reduction is clear: Americans needs to reduce their sodium intake to at least 2,300 mg/day, and ideally to 1500, which is well below the current average daily intake of 3,500 mgs,” said Creager. “While the Senate’s bill is slightly better than the House’s, all of language on the Dietary Guidelines and sodium reduction should be removed from both bills. Delaying action on either effort will harm the health of Americans.”

He added, “We urge Congress to mold these legislative proposals into a final bill that supports the NIH, the CDC and the other valuable programs that help Americans live free of heart disease and stroke.”   

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For media inquiries, please contact Retha Sherrod at Retha.sherrod@heart.org or 202-785-7929

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