Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, May 8, 2024
House Labor, HHS Subcommittee Holds Its Member Day

Annually members of Congress have the opportunity to make requests before the various subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee through a process called Member Day. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies subcommittee held its Member Day hearing on April 30 where members of Congress lobbied the chair Robert Aderholt who controls the largest nondefense appropriations bill allocating approximately $225 billion annually. 

Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) was the first witness before the subcommittee. He requested increased funding for the Office of Nutrition Research at National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance food as medicine initiatives nationwide. He also wanted report language in the bill to improve medical nutrition education for doctors to incorporate medically tailored meals and provide produce prescriptions. He encouraged the chair to support language that encourages the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to provide continued funding for the Investor Catalyst Hub and Spoke Network and language that encourages the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to continue to expand the innovation funnel model beyond COVID-19 testing, to address other critical unmet needs in diagnostic testing. 

In terms of a specific disease, he also requested increased funding for mitochondrial disease research, a prioritization of the development of life-saving therapeutics, and language directing the NIH to allocate funding for research and awareness grants relating to childhood post-infectious neuroimmune disorders such as pediatric acute onset neuropsychiatric syndrome and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcus. McGovern’s daughter suffers from neurofibromatosis and is in a clinical trial due to the investments in NIH.

The second witness was Rep. Paul Ruiz (D-CA) who is also an emergency room physician. He testified about the important role of infectious disease physicians in caring for patients with serious infections and leading infection prevention protocols. He said the current health care system does not adequately value the infectious disease expertise of doctors and the recruitment barrier is high because of this. It also has the third lowest reimbursement of all specialties. Another barrier is high medical student debt. Therefore, he asked for funding for the Bio-Preparedness Workforce Pilot program at the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is an operating division with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides equitable health care to the nation’s highest-need communities.