Congress Approves $388 Billion Appropriations Bill for FY 2005
Congress on Saturday night approved a $388 billion, fiscal year 2005 omnibus appropriations bill that includes funds for HHS and other federal departments, as well as many federal agencies, the Los Angeles Times reports (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 11/21). The House approved the legislation, which includes more than 1,000 pages and weighs 14 pounds, on a 344-51 vote. The Senate later passed the bill on a 65-30 vote (Morgan/Dewar, Washington Post, 11/21). The legislation combines nine separate appropriations bills that Congress had not yet approved (Hulse/Stolberg, New York Times, 11/21). Summaries of some of the health-related provisions in the bill appear below.
- The bill would provide $100 million to help ensure an adequate supply of flu vaccine doses in the future (Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
- The part of the bill that would finance HHS, as well as the labor and education departments, would provide $142.3 billion in discretionary funds -- a 2.8% increase from FY 2004 -- before a 0.8% across-the-board reduction. The legislation would provide NIH with $28.5 billion for FY 2005, an $849 million increase from FY 2004 (Swindell, CQ Today, 11/20).
- The part of the bill that would finance the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as related independent agencies, would provide $128.6 billion for FY 2005, which includes $93.5 billion in discretionary funds, without the across-the-board reduction. The legislation includes $1.4 billion more in discretionary funds than President Bush requested, in part to expand health care programs for veterans. Federal expenditures for veteran health care programs will increase by $1.5 billion in FY 2005 to $28.3 billion, which does not include an additional $2 billion in expected fee collections. In addition, the bill would provide $5.5 billion for the National Science Foundation for FY 2005, a $61 million decrease from FY 2004 (Wayne, CQ Today, 11/20).
- The part of the bill that would finance FDA and most U.S. Department of Agriculture operations would provide $83.3 billion for FY 2005 -- which would include $17 billion in discretionary funds, a 0.7% increase from FY 2004 and 2% more than Bush requested -- but lawmakers removed a provision that would have helped facilitate the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada. The legislation would provide FDA with $1.5 billion for FY 2005, a 6% increase from FY 2004 (Jalonick, CQ Today, 11/20).
Congress approved the omnibus appropriations bill despite "last-minute objections from abortion rights advocates that threatened to delay or derail the entire measure," the Post reports. The legislation includes a provision under which federal, state or local agencies could not force physicians, hospitals, health insurers, HMOs or other health care entities to provide abortion services or referrals. The provision would extend to "nearly all providers of health care" a "conscience protection" provided to medical students who seek to avoid abortion training, the Post reports.
The provision would affect all states but would most affect those that use state funds to finance abortion-related services for Medicaid beneficiaries (Washington Post, 11/21). Forty-five states currently allow health care providers to refuse to offer abortion services without penalty, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer (Kuhnhenn, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/21). The bill will move to Bush for consideration after the House approves a Senate provision that would eliminate a tax return measure (New York Times, 11/21).