House bill reduces spending boost for NIH

House bill reduces spending boost for NIH
© NIH

House leaders on Thursday released an updated version of a medical cures bill that slightly reduces a funding increase for the National Institutes of Health. 

The latest changes to the bill were posted on the House Rules Committee website just before the long weekend, as well as floor consideration of the bill next week. 

The bill’s bipartisan backers have been working out its $12 billion in offsets. 

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The new version reduces the NIH increase to $8.75 billion over five years, instead of $10 billion over five years. 

That alteration comes as one of the controversial measures to pay for the increase was dropped from the new bill. That change would have delayed payments to insurers under the Medicare prescription drug program, so that the government could keep interest earned on the funds. 

That would have saved roughly $5 billion, but had drawn objections from the insurance industry and from a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). 

Instead, the new bill adds savings from excluding generic drugs from the calculation of rebates that drug manufacturers pay to states and the federal government under Medicaid. In effect, the change increases the rebates that drug manufacturers have to pay the government. 

The core of the 21st Century Cures bill increases NIH funding and looks to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new drugs. The effort has been led by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). 

An older version of the bill passed out of committee on a rare 51-0 vote in May. 

Backers are hoping for as many as 350 votes on the House floor next week, in order to put pressure on the Senate to speed up its work on that chamber’s version of the bill. They have also pushed back on concerns from some that the bill lowers standards at the FDA too much in its push to speed up the process.