Trump Seeks to Slash HHS Budget Yet Boost Opioid Funds

February 28, 2018

On Feb. 12, President Donald Trump asked for a nearly $18 billion cut in health programs next year, but also to increase funding for opioid programs by nearly $17 billion over two years, including $3 billion this year.

Trump's budget request would cut the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by $17.9 billion for fiscal 2019, a 21 percent reduction in spending compared with 2017. The request also called for adding $5 billion over the next five years to the HHS budget for programs to combat the opioid epidemic, according to a senior administration official. The rest of the opioid funds would be spread across other federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, which would receive $2.2 billion in 2019 under the Trump budget request.

The request is the first time the Trump administration has formally requested new funds to reduce deaths related to opioids, which along with heroin, prescription drugs, and fentanyl killed a record 42,000 people in 2016. The administration is also seeking to expand Medicare reimbursement for medication-assisted treatments of drug addiction, such as methadone.

Overall, Trump is seeking to cut entitlement programs like Medicare by $1.7 trillion. The president's budget is a request to Congress for funds and an outline of the White House's policy priorities. Congress authorizes federal spending. The White House's request for reducing federal domestic spending will come less than a week after congressional leaders agreed to raise such spending by more than $60 billion next year, with $1 billion targeted specifically for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2019.

In his budget request, the president also endorsed a plan for overhauling Obamacare by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would effectively replace the health law's insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion funds with block grant programs run by the states.

There are several goals for reducing the cost of prescription drugs in Trump's budget, including allowing Medicare beneficiaries to reap the benefits of discounts normally passed to insurers and pharmaceutical industry middlemen.

Last year, the Trump administration also pushed for a major reduction in domestic spending, specifically for health programs. Trump's proposed 2018 budget looked to slash more than $11 billion from the HHS, with nearly $7 billion in cuts to NIH.

Read more in the president’s budget request

Selected information in the "Pharmaceutical Science Update" is compiled from summaries and articles from Bloomberg BNA.

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