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Congress Reaches Bipartisan Budget Deal – Raises Spending Caps

February 9, 2018

President Donald Trump signed a two-year budget agreement that will boost federal spending by almost $300 billion and suspend the debt ceiling for a year, ending a brief partial government shutdown that began at midnight when lawmakers missed a funding deadline. The U.S. Senate passed its continuing resolution (CR) around 1:30 a.m. on February 9 (71-28) followed by a U.S. House vote (240-186) on final passage. The stopgap spending bill will last through March 23, giving appropriators six weeks to finalize a fiscal year (FY) 2018 all-inclusive (or omnibus) spending bill. 

The bipartisan budget deal provides relief from Congressionally mandated caps on federal spending that became law in 2011.  The deal will allow increases for both defense and domestic spending, which will enable additional investments in federal programs that receive Congressional appropriations. The deal will raise the current caps on defense spending by $80 billion over current law in this fiscal year and $85 billion in the one that begins October 1. Non-defense spending will rise by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year. Raised spending caps should allow for a $1-billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY2018 and 2019. In light of increased spending levels, the Society will be urging Congress to fund the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This System was authorized as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in 2016, but the caps on discretionary spending had prevented it from being funded. 
The bipartisan deal also includes these provisions which are beneficial to people living with and affected by MS:
  • Permanently repeals the cap on Medicare outpatient therapy services, allowing people with MS to receive the physical, occupational and speech-language therapy services they need to live their best lives;
  • Funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program through FY2027;
  • Extends the Independence at Home Demonstration Program so the benefit of caring for certain Medicare beneficiaries in their home is expanded to more people with complex care needs;
  • Enacts the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act, permanently removing the rental cap for Medicare durable medical equipment with respect to speech generating devices;
  • Extends protections for state medical cannabis programs; and
  • Enables Medicare Advantage plans and Accountable Care Organizations to utilize telehealth services more broadly.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.


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