Congress just passed a massive budget deal -- and it includes some huge changes for Americans' healthcare

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • Congress early Friday morning passed a massive budget deal aimed to fix the US government’s cycle of short-term funding bills after a brief shutdown.
  • The plan includes funding for the National Institutes of Health, the opioid crisis, among other health initiatives, totaling almost $US20 billion.
  • It also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years and closes the Medicare “doughnut hole” a year earlier than anticipated.

Congress passed a bipartisan plan on Friday to end a brief government shutdown.

That plan introduced significant funding and changes for healthcare initiatives and agencies, including funding for the National Institutes of Health, the opioid crisis, among other health initiatives, totaling almost $US20 billion.

The Senate and House voted on the deal late Thursday and early Friday morning. Many House members had expressed concerns about the plan.

“Ultimately, neither side got everything it wanted in this agreement, but we reached a bipartisan compromise that puts the safety and well-being of the American people first,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

Some of its healthcare-related initiatives include:

  • An additional $US2 billion for the National Institutes of Health.
  • $US6 billion over the next two years to combat the opioid crisis, a big increase from the funding set aside by naming the crisis a “public health emergency.
  • $US4 billion for VA hospital and clinic improvements.
  • A two-year reauthorization of community health centres, with $US7 billion in total funding. That would help reinstate the funding the centres – which serve more than 25 million Americans – lost when a key fund expired in September 2017.
  • $US495 million for National Health Service Corps, an organisation within the Department of Health and Human Service that helps medical professionals pay for their medical education.
  • $US363 million for teaching health centres.

The plan also includes a few changes to the healthcare system.

  • It closes the doughnut hole in Medicare, an aspect of Medicare’s prescription drug coverage that left seniors on the hook for a certain amount of prescription drug costs before hitting a yearly limit. The plan closes that hole a year earlier than anticipated, much to the dismay of pharma companies that are now have to bear more of the cost, Axios reports.
  • It would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years. The latest stopgap bill only extended the program for 6 years.
  • It would repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare. While the board was set up in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, it has not been used. The idea was to help slow down Medicare spending.

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