WASHINGTON, D.C., December 17, 2019 — The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, issued the following statement in response to the omnibus appropriations bill released yesterday:
“Bipartisan majorities in Congress are once again uniting behind a substantial increase for groundbreaking research at the National Institutes of Health, including additional funding for the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Sustained research funding enables progress against cardiovascular disease, the leading disease killer in America and around the world, and ensures our nation will remain a global leader in research.
“Funding increases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also will help combat cardiovascular disease, especially among populations with the highest burden. We are pleased with budget increases for the WISEWOMAN and REACH programs, which raise awareness of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and ways to prevent it. We had hoped for an increase for the Million Hearts initiative, which aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2022, but funding is held flat in the bill.
“We are pleased, however, the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention will receive a funding increase. In addition, the Office on Smoking and Health will receive more resources to address tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth and adults.
“Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture includes greater support for efforts to improve nutrition, such as by helping schools nationwide successfully implement science-based nutrition standards. We are also pleased to see ongoing support for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
“However, we are deeply disappointed the bill would allow schools to skip serving fruits before serving potatoes without another vegetable requirement in their breakfast offerings. Requiring schools to provide dark green and orange fruits and vegetables ensures other vegetable subgroup requirements are met before they serve starchy, often fried vegetables such as hash browns.
“We are also disappointed the bill would require USDA to reopen part of the requirements that guide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers on what foods to put on their shelves and redefine what the term ‘variety’ means. This could mean that more unhealthy foods qualify as staple foods for SNAP participants, a concern underscored by a recent USDA proposed rule that would allow canned spray cheese to count as a staple food.
“We strongly commend the bipartisan support for including language to raise the tobacco sales age to 21 nationwide. Raising the minimum sales age for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, will help reduce tobacco use, nicotine addiction and tobacco-related disease and death. However, we are deeply disappointed the bill does not address flavored tobacco products. Stopping the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use requires a comprehensive approach that must include removing flavored e-cigarettes from the market, as well as flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. The bill also leaves out other important measures such as halting online sales of all tobacco products and codifying the May 2020 deadline for premarket tobacco application submissions.
“We are deeply disappointed congressional leaders chose not to address the growing issue of surprise medical billing. Recent data show that out-of-network charges among people with employer-based insurance are 50 percent higher for heart-attack patients than for other diagnoses. Patients must be protected from surprise bills that can threaten their financial stability and prevent access to additional necessary medical care. We urge lawmakers to address this important issue without further delay.”
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.