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Congress Adjourns for 2015 Following Passage of the 2016 Omnibus Package

Delays in passing the Omnibus spending bill required Congress to pass several continuing resolutions to keep the government open. A continuing resolution is a short-term stopgap spending bill that effectively prevents a government shutdown when funding for the federal government runs out. The continuing resolutions allowed Congress additional time to negotiate and draft the $1.1 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus legislation that will fund the government through September 2016. The additional time was required to help develop a longer term budget agreement to provide additional funding for discretionary programs, as well as to address controversial policies that were tacked on to the bill.

In the end, very few of the controversial policy riders were included in the final package. The omnibus package was approved by the House of Representatives on December 18 by a vote of 316-113, and was then passed by the Senate by a vote of 73-25, and has been signed into law by President Obama. The spending bill adds $5.4 billion to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding, including an additional $2 billion for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These additional research funds will specifically target research on Alzheimer's disease, as well as the brain, antibiotics, and precision medicine initiatives. Spending for the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) was raised by $300 million, which includes funds to combat prescription drug abuse. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received $132 million above current spending levels, while discretionary spending for veteran's health increased by $6.4 billion. Funding for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be maintained at current levels.

The omnibus package also included a two-year delay of the Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans, a two-year suspension of the medical device excise tax, and a one-year suspension of the annual Health Insurance Tax. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, which was championed by ASPS and will help ensure breast cancer patient access to post operative care options, was also included in the final spending package.