Bush To Propose 2% Increase in NIH Funding in Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Proposal
President Bush today plans to submit a $2.25 trillion fiscal year 2004 budget proposal to Congress that would provide a 2% increase in NIH funds, the Washington Post reports. Over the past five years, NIH each year has received between 14% and 15% increases in funds as part of a plan to double the NIH budget from $13.6 billion in 1998. The proposed 2% increase for FY 2004 would affect tens of thousands of researchers who depend on NIH grants and over time could "make a difference to millions of Americans who are counting on NIH to deliver new treatments," the Post reports. Under the proposal, which would fund NIH at $27.9 billion, annual 4% increases in funds for "cost-of-doing-research" promised for current grants would decrease to 1% per year, a move that could leave NIH "hard pressed to maintain the funding of existing grants" and force the agency to "cut back sharply" on new grants, the Post reports. In addition, the number of nonbioterrorism research grants awarded by NIH in 2004 would likely decrease to 9,487 from 9,724 in 2003. "It will be shocking. The response will be fairy negative," Donald Poppke, the NIH acting associate director for budget, said. However, Bush administration officials said that the proposed 2% increase in NIH funds represents a 4.3% increase in funds for nonbioterrorism research. According to the Post, Congress often allocates more funds for NIH than the president requests, but the "pressure to hold spending growth" may prevent the approval of additional NIH funds this year; Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have introduced a bill that would triple the NIH budget for the decade that ends in 2008 (Weiss, Washington Post, 2/3).
Bush's FY 2004 budget proposal also will likely include a 10-year, $400 billion plan to reform Medicare and provide prescription drug coverage for seniors (Reuters/USA Today, 1/3). Although neither Bush nor the administration has released details about the plan, media reports have said that the plan would establish a prescription drug benefit for beneficiaries who enroll in a new managed care program. According to reports, Medicare beneficiaries could remain in the traditional fee-for-service program, enroll in regional HMOs that offer prescription drug coverage or enroll in private health plans with "enhanced fee-for-service benefits" that include prescription drug coverage (California Healthline, 1/30). Bush's budget proposal also will likely include provisions for:
- HHS: The proposal would provide funds for Medicare reform, as well as programs to help the uninsured, ensure the privacy of medical records and improve the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and related programs (Ghent et al., CongressDaily, 1/31).
- HIV/AIDS: The proposal would provide $15 billion to African and Caribbean nations to combat HIV/AIDS over five years and $16 billion to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States for fiscal year 2004.
- Medicaid: The proposal would provide states with $12.7 billion over seven years, which includes $3.25 billion in 2004, for their Medicaid programs.
- Vaccines: The proposal would provide $6 billion over the next decade to develop new vaccines against anthrax, Ebola, plague, botulism and other bioterrorism agents (Reuters/USA Today, 2/3).
The New York Times reports that Bush's FY 2004 budget proposal has a "strong chance" of passing "largely intact," as congressional Republicans have promised to "hew closely" to the plan. However, moderate Republicans in the Senate may challenge the proposal. For example, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has criticized Bush's reported plan to provide prescription drug coverage only to Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in managed care plans (Andrews/Firestone, New York Times, 2/3). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.