Federal Budget Battles Begin – Health Professions Education at StakeOctober 3, 2011
By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief
I’m subscribed to many listservs, mailing lists, and eNews alerts that help me keep track of news that may be important to nurses. One e-mail list I’m on is the Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC), from the Association of American Medical Colleges. It closely monitors funding for health professions education.
Last week, the e-mail reported on the proposed 2012 federal budget—that is, the initial draft proposed by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments appropriations subcommittee. Among a great deal else, this includes funding for Medicare, the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and medical and nursing education (Title VII and Title VIII funding).
There’s already contention over the proposal, with the Democrats claiming they had nothing to do with it. According to ranking Democratic member Rep. Norm Dick, quoted in the minority party press release: “Make no mistake: this is not a committee product. This draft bill represents the ideological position of one committee member—the subcommittee chairman.”
Among other aspects, the proposal includes cuts to all monies to Planned Parenthood (as long as it continues to provide abortion services), National Public Radio, and any programs under the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
According to the HPNEC e-mail: “The bill offers a total of $87.5 million for Title VII programs, a $185 million (67.9 percent) cut, by eliminating funding for the Title VII Health Careers Opportunity Program, scholarships for disadvantaged students, primary care medicine, Area Health Education Centers, and allied health programs, and drastically reducing some other Title VII programs. For Title VIII [nurse workforce development programs], the draft bill provides $106.828 million, a $135.6 million (55.9 percent) cut, achieved through elimination of funding for the Title VIII loan repayment and scholarship program and comprehensive geriatric education, as well as reductions to other Title VIII programs.”
The press release from the Republican committee members lauds the proposal, quoting chair Hal Rogers: “To protect critical programs and services that many Americans rely on—especially in this time of fiscal crisis—the bill takes decisive action to cut duplicative, inefficient, and wasteful spending to help get these agency budgets onto sustainable financial footing.”
While this is only the first draft and no doubt there will be much haggling and political posturing, it serves as a reminder of the current rancor in Congress, where all issues seem to be battlegrounds.