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White House budget: HHS includes more money for medical research, food safety, Ebola

The Food and Drug Administration would get a nine percent boost with a budget of $4.9 billion. (Courtesy of FDA)

President Obama is seeking $83.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Health and Human Services for a broad range of efforts, from ongoing support of the health-care law to speeding development of medical innovations to safeguarding the nation’s food supply.

The budget includes $4.9 billion for the Food and Drug Administration — a nine percent increase over 2015 funding levels. That would include additional resources for the agency to continue to implement the far-reaching Food Safety Modernization Act, signed by President Obama in 2011, which aims to improve the safety of both imported and domestically produced foods. The White House also wants a new, single agency housed at HHS to oversee food safety. Currently, the task is divided primarily between the FDA and the Department of Agriculture.

The FDA also would receive money as part of the president’s multi-agency efforts to invest in “precision medicine” and to help reduce the number of infections caused by the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Monday’s request would add resources for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been at the forefront of the U.S. response to Ebola during the past year. Building on the $5.4 billion in emergency Ebola spending approved by Congress for several agencies last year, the budget includes funds for the CDC to give technical assistance to other countries to develop disease detection and response systems. The budget also includes more money to expand the CDC’s efforts to curb the devastating effects of prescription drug overdoses, which have skyrocketed in the past decade largely because of powerful opioids.

Obama’s budget would fund the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program – which covers 8 million kids and is set to expire later this year – through 2019 with an increase on tobacco taxes. It also overhauls Medicare’s flawed system for paying physicians, following last week’s announcement that the administration wants faster adoption of new payment models that reward quality of services over quantity. The budget continues to fund the administration’s signature health-care law, which again faces a major Supreme Court challenge this year.

The president also wants to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in biomedical research, including in the search for new treatments tailored to the genetic makeup of individual patients. In addition, the budget would continue to fund efforts such as the BRAIN initiative, in which researchers are developing tools to offer insight into confounding diseases such as Alzheimer’s.