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The omnibus spending bill would boost funding for medical research and opioids

In: Medical research, opioids. Out: Obamacare money.

US Capitol Bill Clark/Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

The omnibus spending bill that Congress is preparing to pass, which would fund the federal government through September, has relatively modest changes for health care.

Initially, some senators were pushing for an Obamacare stabilization plan in the bill — but those proposals have been left out for now. The bill otherwise provides some modest funding boosts for medical research and the opioid crisis, while handing the drug industry a rare loss from Capitol Hill.

The final bill could still change — the sponsors of the Republican plan for the Obamacare markets want to add it when the bill comes to their side — but for now, this is what’s in and what’s out for health care in the spending bill.

What’s in:

  • $3 billion funding boost, to $37 billion, for the National Institutes of Health
  • $3.2 billion funding infusion for the fight against the opioid crisis now killing more than 60,000 Americans every year, most of it for medical treatment and prevention efforts
  • A small victory, as Vox’s German Lopez put it, to relax the current restrictions preventing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun control
  • A modest proposal, from Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to strengthen federal background checks for firearm purchases
  • A rare loss in Congress for pharma: The industry had been lobbying, as STAT reported, to remove a policy that requires drug companies to pick up much of the costs for drugs for people covered by Medicare — but Congress left it untouched

What’s out:

  • Any funding for the Obamacare marketplaces: Some Senate Republicans were putting forward a plan, opposed by Democrats, to inject money into the markets, but it has been left out of the House version; Senate aides had said previously it could still be added on the other side of the Capitol
  • Any of the controversial anti-abortion riders that helped derail the Obamacare funding package

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