Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a two-year fiscal budget deal negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lift the nation’s debt limit and raise spending levels by $321 billion over existing caps. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump, the agreement would prevent steep spending cuts to federal programs and a default on the nation’s debt. The $2.7 trillion package would increase funding for both the Pentagon and domestic programs, including health care and health research programs vital to the osteopathic medical education (OME) community. The Senate is expected to vote on the package before leaving for the August recess this Friday.
Interim Vice President of Government and Public Relations
Due to the congressional August recess, we will return with our next Washington Insider in September. See you in the fall!
On The Hill
House Passes Budget and Debt Ceiling Deal
Last week, the House passed H.R. 3877, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA), to suspend the debt ceiling through July 2021 and raise discretionary spending limits by $321 billion over two fiscal years (FYs). Non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, which supports public health, education, scientific research, and other programs and efforts vital to OME, would total $632 billion in the bill in FY20 and $634.5 billion in FY21, not including one-time costs for the 2020 Census and overseas contingency operations. The $2.7 trillion budget package is on track for passage through the Senate. The legislation comes after Secretary Mnuchin warned congressional leaders that the nation could reach its borrowing limit in early September, several weeks earlier than previously estimated. Without an agreement to raise the budget caps, defense spending would be slashed by $71 billion, while non-defense spending would face a $55 billion cut. In a joint letter, the Coalition for Health Funding, of which AACOM is a member,urged Congress to vote in favor of the BBA to increase funding to NDD programs and end sequestration’s steep spending cuts. AACOM will continue to advocate for programs of importance to OME throughout the FY20 appropriations process.
AACOM Joins Letter of Support for POST GRAD Act
AACOM joined 17 national organizations as a member of the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions in a letter to U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) in support of H.R. 3418, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act, an AACOM-supported bill that would help graduate and professional students finance their education. This legislation would reinstate graduate and professional student eligibility for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, which was eliminated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The measure would essentially cover graduate and professional students’ cost of interest accrued on federal loans while completing their education. AACOM also supported this legislation in the last Congress.
House Committee Moves Health Legislation
Earlier this month, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a markup on health care legislation relevant to the OME community. The committee passed H.R. 2328, the Reauthorizing and Extending America's Community Health (REACH) Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The bill would extend four years of mandatory funding for, among other health programs, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program and the National Health Service Corps. Both programs strengthen and grow the primary care workforce by supporting dedicated health professionals serving in Health Professional Shortage Areas. Without congressional action, funding for the programs will expire October 1. The REACH Act has now been sent to the full House, which is expected to consider the bill once it returns from congressional recess.
While AACOM appreciates the House’s support of these vital programs, we have strongly endorsed a similar bipartisan bill, H.R. 2815/S. 1191, the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019, which would not only reauthorize but also expand the THCGME Program. We continue to urge Congress to prioritize and pass this critical legislation.
House Creates Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force
On July 16, the House Ways and Means Committee launched the Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force, a bipartisan group led by four co-chairs: U.S. Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Brad Wenstrup (D-OH), and Jodey Arrington (R-TX). The task force will bring together Members and experts in the field to “discuss the challenges of delivering health care in rural and underserved areas, and explore holistic bipartisan policy options that could improve outcomes and care in these communities.” AACOM looks forward to working with the task force on the important goal of improving access to health care in our nation’s rural and underserved communities.
Take Action this Virtual Hill Day: #COMDAY19
AACOM’s 2019 COM Day on Capitol Hill is our yearly advocacy event hosting osteopathic medical school deans, the Assembly of Osteopathic Graduate Medical Educators, and other designated AACOM members in Washington, DC to meet with elected officials about the federal policy issues affecting OME. To increase our impact, we urge every member of the OME community to help amplify our COM Day message by saving the date for our Virtual Hill Day, October 17, which will take place in conjunction with COM Day. Virtual Hill Day allows all advocates across the country to use social media to share their personal stories with lawmakers about why it is crucial to invest in the nation’s future health care workforce. Be a part of the process. Plan to connect this Virtual Hill Day with your Members of Congress on behalf of your profession and your patients.
Start the School Year Right with ED to MED’s Advocacy Essentials
While it may feel like summer has just begun, health professions students across the country will soon be or already are heading back to school for another year of learning, studying, and gaining the knowledge required to earn their degrees. Make sure you’re informed and engaged on key federal policy issues this upcoming school year with ED to MED’s advocacy essentials. Learn more.
Administration & Federal Agencies
Reminder: Apply for FY20 THCGME Program and View Technical Assistance Webinar
As a reminder, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accepting applications through August 30 for the FY20 THCGME Program, which supports the training of primary care residents in community-based ambulatory patient care centers. The program is vital to preparing residents to provide high-quality health care, particularly in rural and underserved communities. Awards will be made to support HRSA-funded filled resident positions at existing THCGME Programs and new resident positions at new Teaching Health Centers. Interested applicants can view a recording of the July 10 HRSA-hosted technical assistance webinar. AACOM strongly supports the highly successful THCGME Program and has endorsed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and expand it. Learn more.
Apply Now: NIH Extramural Loan Repayment Programs
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently accepting applications for its FY20 Extramural Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs). The NIH LRPs are designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into biomedical or biobehavioral research careers by helping alleviate some of the debt burden that drives many health professionals away from research activities. The NIH may repay up to $50,000 of qualified student loan debt per year for each awardee, in exchange for the commitment to conduct at least two years of NIH mission-relevant research for no less than 20 hours per week. There are five extramural LRPs that applicants may be eligible for, including clinical research, pediatric research, health disparities research, contraception and infertility research, and clinical research for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. A completed online application must be submitted by November 15.
Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement
Save the Date: Free Loan Repayment Strategies Webinar: Save the date for Wednesday, September 18 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET for a member webinar on loan repayment strategies for osteopathic physicians. The webinar will feature Paul Garrard, Founder and President of PGPresents, LLC, one of the nation’s leading experts on student loans and educational debt management for medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians. Register now.
Primary Care and Behavioral Health Integration Training Webcast: Join HRSA and HRSA-funded health centers on Wednesday, July 31 from 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM ET for a webinar on unique approaches to providing high-quality, integrated behavioral health care and practices to develop behavioral health workforce training programs. Interested individuals may participate using the call-in number 877-917-4906 and passcode 9450742. Join the webcast.
Participate in HRSA’s Virtual Job Fair: On August 7 from 6:45 PM – 10:15 PM ET, HRSA will host a Virtual Job Fair to connect trainees with practicing clinicians and health care sites nationwide. Participants will have the unique opportunity to engage with health care providers and receive real-time answers to their employment questions. Learn more.
Reminder: CMS Seeks Public Comment on Reducing Administrative Burden: To improve program integrity, lower costs, and make the health care system more effective, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is seeking public comment on regulatory policies and opportunities to streamline reporting requirements to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on health care providers. Comments are due on August 12 by 5:00 PM ET. Learn more.
NIDA Supplemental Substance Use Disorder Curriculum Resources: Faculty members, medical students, residents, and practicing physicians may utilize a diverse portfolio of innovative curriculum resources on addressing substance use disorders in patients developed by the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse Centers of Excellence for Physician Information. Materials are provided in a variety of formats and can be tailored to learners on multiple levels. Learn more.
Free Online Resource for Early-Stage Drug Development: Managed by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the Assay Guidance Manual is a tool designed to assist investigators in the development of early-stage drug discovery assays. View the manual.
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