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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

IDSA sees House Appropriations bills as promising start, still come up short amid pandemic

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With news that appropriations bills aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic had passed out of House committees this week, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) examined and declared the bills to provide critical resources, albeit with significant gaps and inadequate funding.

This covers two pieces of legislation: a House Labor, Health and Human Services bill, and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bills.

What the House Labor, Health and Human Services bill offers:

  • $175 million — a $5 million increase — to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative;
  • $4.5 billion in emergency funding for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to boost health emergency preparedness and $500 million for innovative antibacterial research and development;
  • $10 million increase for CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infections;
  • $9 billion in CDC emergency funding;
  • $128 million increase for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and level funding for antimicrobial research;
  • Nearly $5.7 million increase for Fogarty International Center; and
  • $10 million for antimicrobial resistance research at Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and a directive to conduct infectious diseases diagnostic outcomes research.

IDSA cheered these gains, and in particular, the bill’s acknowledgment of shortcomings in outpatient evaluation and management reimbursements. The organization says this makes it difficult to recruit, support, and sustain specialists for patient-focused work. While this is a start, though, IDSA also claimed the bills do not go far enough.

“The bills also, however, leave significant gaps in the deeper investments needed to combat antimicrobial resistance, malaria, and the next phases of the continuing pandemic,” IDSA said in a statement. “They also lack adequate funding to ensure effective efforts during the coming influenza season and pursue the administration’s initiative to end HIV as an epidemic.”

IDSA called the shortcomings in a Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill particularly serious, noting failures to increase funding for rapid detection of emerging pathogens under the CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection Initiative, level funding for the National Healthcare Safety Network and only a $2 million increase for the CDC Center for Global Health.

While the State and Foreign Operations bill provides $10 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 response, IDSA honed in on language beneficial to the World Health Organization (WHO). It would provide $119 million to the WHO and would also provide $200 million in voluntary contributions.

“Continued congressional funding of the WHO is not only a clear indication of policymakers’ disapproval of the administration’s decision to withdraw from the WHO, it is an important step for rejoining the agency in the future,” IDSA said.

The bill also targets a global gag rule the Trump administration has used to ban federal aid to any overseas programs providing health services that include any reference to or assistance in pregnancy termination.

Still, IDSA chided the bill for providing what it deemed to be less than what USAID needs for global health security actions, for flat-funding of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Global Fund, and USAID’s TB program, as well as a $15 million cut to the president’s Malaria Initiative.