President Trump submitted his initial Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget to Congress this week, recommending deep cuts to programs important to the Parkinson's community.
Presidential budgets serve as a starting point for the federal funding process, and they have never been adopted without changes. It is expected that Congress will pass spending bills that differ from what the president introduced.
As the budget makes its way through the legislative process, we'd like to highlight several agencies and programs that could be impacted.
National Institutes of Health (NIH): Funding for the NIH is set at $25.9 billion, a cut of $5.8 billion, or 20 percent, from the current 2017 level. The reduction, which is equivalent to 2003 NIH funding (not adjusted for inflation), would reverse gains in research progress.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), in collaboration with the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research and the Coalition for Health Funding, has sent letters to Congress opposing cuts to scientific investments. MJFF will work with Congress as it completes the budgeting process to ensure NIH funding remains a priority.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): While the budget advises a $500 million increase for the CDC, it is unclear if funding would be allocated to implement the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System. This system was established by the 21st Century Cures Act but is not yet funded. It aims to provide comprehensive information on how many people are living with neurological diseases, who they are and where they are located.
MJFF will aggressively pursue funding for the surveillance system, which will help researchers assess potential environmental triggers and patterns of neurological diseases, as well as make it easier to properly allocate health care resources.
Department of Defense (DoD): At 10 percent, or $54 billion, the DoD's funding increase is the largest under the president's plan. The Parkinson's Research Program (PRP), which is the only federal government program specifically dedicated to the disease, is housed within the DoD. It's unclear if any of the DoD funding increase would apply to this program.
In recent years, funding for the PRP has significantly decreased (from $25 million in FY 2010 to $16 million in FY 2016). MJFF advocates to restore PRP funding to $20 million so that scientific progress benefitting our nation's service members can continue.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Since 1993, the FDA has collected user fees from industry groups that take advantage of the agency's services. These fees are designed to provide the FDA with supplemental funding to meet its mission and ensure timely approval of new drugs and devices. The proposal requires the agency to increase its user fees to over $2 billion in 2018, which would double the amount industry pays into the FDA's budget. This increases industry influence over FDA funding and could call into question the ability of the agency to act independently.
MJFF will work with the Alliance for a Stronger FDA and members of the House and Senate to secure adequate resources for the agency, as well as address the concerns posed by increased user fees.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The budget aims to guarantee that veterans -- 80,000 of whom are currently living with Parkinson's -- receive high-quality health care and timely access to benefits and services. The plan recommends a $4.6 billion increase in funding for the VA to improve health care service delivery. The Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to receive health care from community-based providers, is extended and funded under the budget. Without action, this program will expire in August 2017.
The budget does not include suggested funding for Medicare or Medicaid, due in part to the ongoing health reform legislation moving through the House of Representatives.
Funding for medical research and drug development has long been supported by members of both parties in the House and Senate. While we expect elected officials to continue backing these issues, it's important to keep ongoing pressure on lawmakers to ensure they remain a priority. Last month, over 200 members of the Parkinson's community gathered in Washington, D.C. to support funding for the programs and agencies that further scientific investment. You can contact your members of Congress and advocate for this issue now.
MJFF will keep the community informed as the budgeting process progresses over the coming weeks.