Federal Legislation

NAMI Advocacy: Upcoming Congressional Vote on Budget Agreement

On Feb. 7, Congressional leaders announced they had reached a two-year budget agreement, which will guide the appropriations process to finalize a FY 2018 budget. The Senate and House are expected to vote on a “continuing resolution,” or CR, later today to fund the government through March 23 – giving Congress six weeks to finalize the details of the FY 2018 budget. This will be Congress’ fifth CR since the fiscal year began last Oct. 1.

While the CR is likely to pass the Senate later today, there is less certainty as to whether it can pass the House due to disagreement in several key areas, including the amount of new spending and immigration. The White House has indicated support for the agreement.

The agreement will increase defense and non-defense spending by nearly $300 billion over the next two years and includes multiple provisions that will impact people with mental illness:

Increases in Opioid and Mental Health Funding: Includes $6 billion in additional funding over the next two years to address the opioid epidemic and fund mental health services. However, there are few details in the agreement on how these funds will be allocated.

Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Includes an additional $2 billion for NIH over the next two years, which could increase funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). While this is an increase, it is half of what both the House and Senate and advocacy community had initially proposed.

Extension of Health Care Programs: Extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional four years through FY 2027 and extends funding for community health centers, which expired at the end of FY 2017, for two years.

Repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB): Created by the ACA, the IPAB has never been appointed. However, the board would serve as an unelected group with the power to make recommendations to cut Medicare expenditures if spending growth reached an arbitrary level. NAMI has long supported the repeal of the IPAB.

Closing the Medicare Part D “Donut Hole”: While closing the “donut hole” is important so that people with mental illness can receive needed prescriptions at more affordable levels, we are still assessing the implications of this provision. We’ll provide more information as details emerge.

NAMI will continue to monitor budget negotiations and let you know if there are opportunities to influence the process.