Senate bill hikes funding for medical research, fraud prevention

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted to increase funding for medical research and a program to fight fraud in public and private health plans.

The Appropriations subpanel governing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), led by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), approved the increases in a mark-up Tuesday.

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The $605 million increase for the National Institutes of Health would effectively cancel the sequester's cut to the institution when combined with a $1 billion increase appropriated for this fiscal year.

The move won praise from research advocacy groups who urged lawmakers to continue efforts to increase funding for meaningful research. 

"We strongly hope this modest boost to the NIH budget is the start of a new trend for federal research support," said American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup in a statement.

"If Congress can provide more federal dollars to the NIH in coming years, medical breakthroughs … can offer hope for millions of Americans."

"We cannot sustain our nation's engine of discovery with dollops of fuel," said Mike Coburn, chief operating officer of Research!America.

"A more robust investment is critical to maintaining our pre-eminence in science and saving lives."

The subcommittee also voted to more than double funding for the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to $672 million for 2015.

Overall, the Labor-HHS appropriations bill will provide $157 billion in funding, nearly $1 billion more than the House has allocated for its measure.

The difference is expected to make the legislation the hardest of the 12 annual spending bills to pass before the deadline of Oct. 1.

—This post was updated Wednesday at 5:24 p.m.