The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a draft Fiscal 2007
Labor-HHS-Education spending bill in late July that raised the possibility
that Congress may approve the primary mental health spending measure before
the next fiscal year begins.
The bill (S 3708) would provide $142.8 billion in health-related
discretionary spending, which is $5 billion more than President Bush requested
and $1.3 billion more than the Fiscal 2006 amount. The House version (HR 5647)
would provide $141.9 billion for discretionary programs. The rest of the
funding in both health budget bills is allocated for Medicare, Medicaid, and
other entitlement programs.
"While [the Senate's funding level] amounts to a modest dollar
increase in health spending, it is still higher than the House's
version," said Nicholas Meyers, director of APA's Department of
The Senate bill would provide $28.5 billion for the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), an increase of $220 million over Fiscal 2006 and $200 million
over the president's budget request.
The House version, which also provides $28.5 billion for NIH, has been
approved by that chamber's Appropriations Committee.
Congressional negotiators will reconcile differences in the two versions
after both chambers pass their versions of the bill.
Rep. David obey (D-Wis.) criticized the proposed budget for NIH as
insufficient, given a "substantial" inflation in research costs.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said that even in the more-generous Senate version,
NIH funding is $3.78 billion below the inflation-adjusted Fiscal 2006
For the three mental health institutes within NIH, the Senate measure would
provide $1.4 billion to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), $1
billion to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and $436 million to the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and alcoholism. These amounts are similar
to the current year's funding levels for the three institutes.
The Senate bill would provide $3.34 billion for the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an increase of $77 million
over the president's budget request. SAMHSA is responsible for supporting
mental health programs and alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and
The Senate bill would restore the $630 million for SAMHSA's Community
Services Block Grant, which was proposed for elimination in the president's
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans
Affairs, and Related Agencies approved a $94.3 billion Fiscal 2007 Military
Construction-VA appropriations bill (HR 5385). Of that amount, $77.9 billion
is earmarked for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which includes health
care spending for veterans. The bill, however, does not include a proposal
from the president to increase TRICARE fees for some veterans. President Bush
had requested an increase in premiums for some veterans and their families in
TRICARE, the program that funds health care for this population, as well as
higher enrollment fees, deductibles, and prescription drug copayments for some
military retirees. The House bill, which would allocate $36.5 billion for VA
discretionary programs, also does not include the proposal.
Both the House and Senate bills would provide $32.7 billion for the
Veterans Health Administration and $3.6 billion for VA medical facilities.
The House's allocation for the overall VA spending bill is $136.1 billion.
It is dramatically higher than the Senate's $94.3 billion total because the
House bill would fund some defense accounts that the Senate bill would not,
including the Defense Health Program. Following Senate passage, negotiators
will have to hammer out differences between the House and Senate versions of
In addition to its work on a health care funding bill, the Senate passed
legislation concerning children who are placed in the child welfare system
because they are affected by methamphetamine use. The Improving Outcomes for
Children Affected by Methamphetamine Act of 2006 (S 3525) amends the Promoting
Safe and Stable Families program to reserve $40 million for grants to create
regional partnerships to improve outcomes for children affected by
methamphetamine abuse or addiction. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Charles
Grassley (R-Iowa), and the president is expected to sign the measure.
"By emphasizing comprehensive family treatment, we are promoting a
promising strategy for families to recover from meth addiction
together," Grassley said at a hearing on the bill.
Information about the Labor-HHS bill is posted at<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.05647:>;
the Senate version of the VA spending bills is posted at<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.05385:>.▪