Obama’s last budget proposal tackles antibiotic resistance, opioid abuse, climate change

President Obama released his 2017 federal budget proposal yesterday, recommending funding boosts for a number of public health priorities. And even though his presidency is coming to an end and so this budget is probably dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress, it’s worth a peek inside.

Here are some of the highlights that seem particularly relevant to public health, health care and working families:

  • Health care access: The Obama budget would expand federal financing to cover the costs of state Medicaid eligibility expansions. That means the federal government would fully cover the costs of state Medicaid expansions for up to three years, even for states that missed the original federal financing deadline. The budget would also extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers about 8 million kids, through 2019.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In the midst of the Zika emergency and on heels of the global Ebola outbreak, Obama has unfortunately proposed cutting CDC funding by $194 million.
  • Antibiotic resistance: Public health scientists have been sounding the alarm on growing antibiotic resistance for years. Obama’s budget proposes $877 million, an increase of $43 million, to fight antibiotic resistance, reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease and develop new drugs.
  • Mental health: Obama’s budget recommends $500 million in new mandatory funding to widen access to mental health care and improve the quality of care that people receive.
  • Opioid abuse: In response to the current opioid abuse and overdose epidemic, the budget proposes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand treatment for prescription drug and heroin abuse.
  • Worker health and safety: The budget proposes $1.9 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Labor to enforce health, safety and wage laws. It also proposes $1 billion for OSHA and MSHA, including resources aimed at improving safety at chemical facilities. That includes a proposed increase of $21 million for MSHA, a $6 million increase for OSHA compliance activities, and a $4 million increase to enforce OSHA whistleblower laws. Overall, the 2017 budget proposes an increase in OSHA funding.
  • Climate change: Efforts to reduce greenhouse gases were prominent throughout the 2017 budget proposal, including a proposed $10.25 per barrel tax on oil, revenue from which would go toward transportation investments such as mass transit and clean vehicle research.
  • Paid leave: Proposes $2 billion to help a handful of states implement paid family and medical leave programs as well as to provide small grants to support states and localities in developing leave programs.
  • Poverty: The budget proposes a funding increase for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Also proposed is a new $2 billion Emergency Aid and Service Connection to help families facing financial crisis and prevent their spiral into poverty. (More than 16 million children in America — that’s nearly a quarter of all America’s kids — live below the poverty line.)
  • Food safety: The budget recommends an increase of $212 million to support food safety activities at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funding pot includes money to help state health departments uphold food safety standards and money to fully implement the federal Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • Child care: Obama’s budget proposal would triple the maximum child and dependent care tax credit for families with children younger than 5 and make the full credit available to families with incomes up to $120,000. The budget also proposes $82 billion over 10 years in mandatory funds for child care.
  • Education: Increases Head Start funding by $434 million over 2016 levels. Also increases funding for Preschool Development Grants to expand access to high-quality preschool in low-income communities. The budget proposal would fund new state partnerships to make the first two years of community college free for “responsible students.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said of the proposed budget: “This isn’t even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans.”

Visit the White House to browse through Obama’s last budget proposal.

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.

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