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July 20, 2007

2007

July 20, 2007

Headline

Veto Looms Over Children's Health Insurance Expansion Package

This week, the Senate Finance Committee passed legislation for five year, $35 billion expansion of the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The SCHIP program subsidizes health insurance for children of family above the Medicaid eligibility income levels who are unable to afford private health insurance.

By a vote of 17-4, the Senate Finance Committee approved the program expansion, with all Democrats and a majority of Republicans supporting the measure. The White House has signaled that it would veto the legislation. The White House indicated its support for a much smaller expansion of the program and felt additional expansion would be an inappropriate government take over of health care.

The SCHIP program expansion is financed by a $0.61 cent per pack increase on federal tobacco excise tax. Unless Congress acts, the entire SCHIP program is set to expire September 30, 2007.

Tobacco

FDA Tobacco Bill Action Delayed

This week, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee pushed back until next week action on Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (S. 625). This legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco programs.

Committee action on the bill was delayed due to the all night debate on the Iraq resolution.

Supporters of the FDA remain optimistic that the bill will move successfully through committee and note that the bill now has 52 cosponsors in the Senate and 191 in the House. Opponents of the legislation are planning to offer as many as 100 amendments during next weeks Senate mark up in an attempt to kill the legislation.

Tuberculosis

TB Bill Poised for Senate Committee Action

The domestic tuberculosis (TB) bill, the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), is poised for action in the Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), is currently reviewing the bill to prepare for full committee consideration. The Committee had scheduled the bill for action on July 18, but this committee meeting was postponed due to the Senate's all night debate on Iraq the previous evening.

Before the HELP committee looks at the TB bill, however, it must first pass the FDA Regulation of tobacco bill, S. 625, so it is not yet clear whether the TB bill will be considered before the Senate adjourns for the August recess or when the chamber returns in September. The Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, increases resources for domestic TB control through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, including for state TB control programs, and, additionally for the development of new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. The House companion bill, H.R. 1532, has not yet been scheduled for action in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

All ATS members and friends are urged to contact their two Senators to request their cosponsorship of the bill to ensure that it passes through the Senate HELP Committee and proceeds quickly to a Senate floor vote. The following is a list of the members of the Senate HELP Committee. If your Senator is on this list, please make a special effort to contact them to request a yes vote on S. 1551. Names in bold indicate Senators that are already bill cosponsors, so please thank these Senators for their support and urge them to push the bill to a Senate floor vote.

Members of the Senate Health, Ed., Labor and Pensions Committee
Democrats Republicans
Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY), Rnk. Mem.
Chris Dodd (D-CT) Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Tom Harkin (D-IA) Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Richard Burr (R-NC)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Patty Murray (D-WA) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Jack Reed (D-RI) Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Barack Obama (D-IL) Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH-bill sponsor) Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Independent
Bernard Sanders

 
How To Take Action

Contact your Senators today to urge them to cosponsor the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, support it during consideration by the Senate HELP Committee, and ensure a full Senate vote as soon as possible. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 1-202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator or give your state if you do not know their name. When you are connected to an office, ask for the Health Legislative Assistant. If you leave a voicemail message, include your name and phone number so that they can call you back.

The following is a sample phone message:
"I am a constituent and a healthcare provider from (your town) and I am calling to ask Sen. ___ to cosponsor the Comprehensive TB Elimination Act, S. 1551, support it during consideration by the Senate HELP Committee, and ensure a full Senate vote as soon as possible. The bill must be passed this year to strengthen domestic TB control efforts to prevent outbreaks of drug resistant TB and expand research to find easier, more effective TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines."

Research

House Passes Health Funding Bill

On July 19, the House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations (LHHS) bill. The LHHS bill funds the NIH, CDC, the rest of the Public Health Service and other federal programs. Included in the bill is a 2.6% funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The actual increase for NIH is less (1.9%) when the $201 million transfer of funds from NIH to the global AIDS fund is factored in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received a 4.0% increase including a $14 million increase for the TB control program. This is the first significant increase the TB control program has received in several years.

During full House consideration of the bill, Rep. Jindall (R-LA) offered an amendment to increase CDC's domestic TB control funding by $50 million, but it failed along a party line vote.

Also included in the bill was legislative language requiring researchers to post a copy of NIH funded manuscripts on PubMedCentral within 12 months for official publication of the peer reviewed manuscript. The legislative language requires NIH to implement this policy in a manner that is consistent with copyright law. A similar provision is included in the Senate version of the legislation. Many observers feel the policy is inconsistent with copyright law and expect court challenges to policy.

The Senate Labor-Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill has not yet been scheduled for Senate floor action. Below is a chart of current and past funding levels for NIH and CDC programs.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) (in millions)
Program FY06 Actual FY07 Estimate FY08 Proposed % change
NHLBI $2,951.00 $2,951.00 $2,965.00 +2.0
NIAID $4,383 $4,459 $4,632 +6.3
NIEHS $636 $647 $652 +1.0
NINR $137 $138 $139.5 +1.25
FIC $66 $66 $67 +1.5
NIH Total* $28,587 $28,931 $29,650 +2.6


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (in millions)
Program FY06 Actual FY07 Estimate FY08 Proposed % change
Domestic TB $136 $136 $150 +10.0
NIOSH $262 $252 $310 +22.5
Tobacco Control $104 $104 $104 0
Chronic Disease $833 $834 $869 +4.7
CDC Total $6,366 $6,366 $6,450 +4.0

The House bill exceed the funding level recommendation put forth by the White House President Bush has stated his intent to veto any appropriations bill that exceeds his recommended spending limits. While the LHHS bill passed with enough votes to over-ride the threatened Presidential veto it remains to be seen how Congress will respond to the potential budget show down with the President.



Points of Contact

Gary Ewart Senior Director, Government Relations
Nuala Moore Senior Legislative Representative
Joe Kirby DC Office Administrator