HHS, public health efforts and other federal health programs will take big financial hits under President Donald Trump's first proposed budget released late last week.
While Trump raised defense funding by $54 billion, the president suggested cutting the HHS budget by $12.6 billion, or 16.2%. That's the largest cut in dollars across the entire plan. Public health advocates say there are proposed cuts that would put people at risk while exacerbating a shortfall in healthcare professionals.
Trump's proposed budget, which offers only a two-page summary of most agencies, would pull about $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health's nearly $32 billion budget, dropping its total to $25.9 billion. It's not clear what research on diseases or disorders would lose the most money, although the budget plan specifically calls for eliminating a division that focuses on global health.
The NIH budget has not kept pace with inflation, which has forced the agency to tighten its belt over the years and made it harder for scientists to score federal funding for their research on prospective new treatments or understanding diseases.
The Environmental Protection Agency is also slated to take one of the largest cuts under the plan. Its budget would decrease by $2.6 billion, or 31%, over 2017 levels. About 3,200 jobs would be cut at the agency and many Obama-era initiatives to combat climate change would likely end. Illness caused by climate change cost the U.S. healthcare system $14 billion over the last decade, including more than $700 million in direct medical expenses.
Trump's budget also seeks to cut $403 million in funding to train people to go into nursing and other health professions, stating that there is a lack of “evidence that they significantly improve the nation's health workforce.” Trump instead seeks to uphold existing scholarship and loan repayment programs for health professionals that agree to work in medically underserved areas.
Trump's budget does call for a $500 million increase from 2016 levels in funding for opioid abuse prevention efforts and to expand access to treatment. The plan also calls for investments toward improving mental health and the creation of an emergency response fund to address public health outbreaks.