The Washington Letter
|March 7, 2014|
1150 18th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
President Releases FY2015 Budget
This week, the President released his proposed budget for FY2015. The President’s budget serves as a guideline for the congressional appropriations committees, who will now begin drafting FY2015 spending bills. The budget includes some mixed news for programs the ATS monitors, with a small increase for the NIH. The proposed budget provides the following for agencies that the ATS monitors:
- A funding level of $30.126 billion for the NIH, which is a $200 million, or 0.7% increase over the FY2014 funding level of $29.934 million.
- A funding level of $6.606 billion for the CDC, which is a $243 million, or 3.7% cut below the FY2014 level of $6.849 billion.
- $135 million for CDC’s domestic TB program, flat-funding with FY2014
- $24.7 million for CDC’s asthma program, flat-funding with FY2014
- $205 million for CDC’s tobacco control program, flat-funding with FY2014
- A funding level of $7.890 billion for the EPA, which is a $309.9 million, or 3.7% cut below the FY2014 level of $8.289 billion.
- A funding level of $589 million for the VA Research program, which is a $3 million, or 0.5% funding increase over the FY2014 level of $586 million.
- A funding level of $191 million for USAID’s global TB program, a 19% cut from the FY2014 level of $236 million.
Additional program-specific FY2015 funding levels will be released on March 10, so we will have more information on CDC and other programs, such as the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOSH). At this point, the appropriations process is moving according to regular order in which congressional committees pass bills through committee level, followed by full chamber votes, rather than end-of-year omnibus packages, as has been the case for the several years. However, the 2014 congressional election may complicate the situation during the summer.
EPA Issues Final Rule on Gasoline and Vehicle Tailpipe Standards
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final rules – known has Tier 3 rules – to reduce emissions from vehicle tailpipes. The rule both lowers the allowable sulfur content in gasoline from 30 to 10 part per million and sets stricter emissions standards for vehicle manufacturers. Reducing the sulfur content is an important component of the rule in that it both reduces tailpipe emissions from all cars currently on the road as well as allows the auto industry to build new cars and trucks with more efficient pollution control technology, creating a future fleet of more efficient vehicles.
The American Thoracic Society supports the EPA’s final rule. These changes will have an enormous positive impact on public health.
“The adverse health consequences of traffic-related air pollution are well documented, and as pulmonary physicians, we see the effects of polluted air on patients’ ability to breathe every day,” says Patricia Finn, MD, president of the American Thoracic Society. “The effects of smog on respiratory health are particularly pronounced for patients living with asthma, COPD, or other lung diseases.”
“The impact of air pollution on respiratory health also disproportionately affects people with lower incomes, who are more likely to live near highways or other heavily used roadways,” said Dr. Finn. “ Children are also at increased risk from the effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing and they tend to be more active outdoors than adults.”
The final rule is estimated to save up to 2,000 lives, prevent 19,000 asthma attacks and prevent nearly 300,000 missed days of work and school each year by the year 2030, according to EPA estimates. These reductions will more than offset the costs of implementing the new standards.
House Passes Bill to Hamper EPA’s GHG Rules for Power Plants
This week, the House Representatives passed legislation, by a vote of 229-183, that severely limits the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue carbon emission standards for new and existing power plants. The bill requires Congress to approve any EPA rules to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants. The bill further requires that EPA establish separate standards for coal and natural gas power plants and would block enforcement of any standards on new coal power plants until at least 6 coal plants located at plants around the US have successfully complied with the new standard for 1 year.
ATS Members Asked to Participate in 2 RUC Surveys
This month, the ATS is conducting two surveys on new or revised CPT codes. The first survey is collecting information on the newly created chronic care management CPT codes. Randomly selected members of the ATS will be asked to participate in a survey that collects information on the time, intensity and medical decision making involved in providing chronic care management services.
The ATS is also participating in a survey of a revised set of extracorporeal membrane oxygen/extracorporeal life support (ECMO/ECLS) codes. Randomly selected members of the ATS are being asked to provide information on the time, intensity and medical decision making needed in managing patients on ECMO/ECLS.
If you have received an email from the ATS regarding either of these surveys and have experience providing these services, you are strongly encouraged to participate in the survey. Anonymous survey data will be aggregated and used to establish recommended relative work values for these CPT codes.
The Washington Letter is written by the American Thoracic Society government relations office and emailed to all ATS members living in the United States. The letter keeps clinicians, scientists, and patients abreast of legislative, judicial, and regulatory issues in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. Each week's edition is archived on the ATS Web site, www.thoracic.org. If you have any questions or want more information about becoming involved in advocacy, please contact the ATS Washington office at 202-296-9770.