Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Healthcare Spending, Medical Research

On March 15, 2017, the Trump administration released its first budget proposal, slashing federal spending in many areas of health care, education, environmental protection, and the sciences while increasing funding for defense and homeland security. The proposed budget would decrease spending for the Department of Health and Human Services by nearly 18%, which includes a 20% budget cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—a decrease of nearly $6 billion. This stands to impact a number of cancer-related research programs developing new treatments and drugs through NIH funding.

Other proposed cuts include slashing healthcare profession and nursing workforce programs by $403 million. A number of healthcare organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), have already decried cuts to science and medicine in Trump’s proposed budget.

Chris Hansen, president of the ACS CAN, told CNN, "The proposed reduction in NIH funding of $5.8 billion would represent a significant setback for millions of American cancer patients, survivors and their families. . . . We are at the cusp of tremendous breakthroughs in cancer research, making it exactly the wrong moment to turn back the clock on progress against a disease that continues to kill more than 1,650 people a day in this country."

In previous years, rare changes to the NIH budget would total no more than 1%. Looking at this budget through a political lens, cuts in these departments from 15%–30% is unheard of and will be challenging to get passed. This budget proposal may provide the opportunity for a fractured Congress to work together.

GOP’s Healthcare Bill Faces Stiff Resistance

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, has been met with resistance from both sides of the aisle. While House Speaker Paul Ryan remains confident that the bill will pass the House of Representatives, in which the Republicans hold a strong majority, 20 Republican congressmen have come out against it. This leaves them a one-vote margin in which to pass the ACHA in the House.

There’s further speculation that even if the AHCA passes the House, it’s dead on arrival in the Senate. Currently, no Democrat will support it and Republican moderates are afraid the bill cuts too many safety net programs. Moreover, some conservative Republicans don’t think it goes far enough. The bill presents an opportunity for bipartisan work, but few believe anyone will reach across either aisle to craft a compromise bill. It’s likely that any future replacement plan will have to start from scratch.