HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae discusses the agency's budget for the coming year. Photo by APHA

HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae discusses the agency’s budget for the coming year. Photo by APHA

Following President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration Jim Macrae and a panel of Bureau and Office administrators met at APHA to discuss what impact the $10.7 billion budget request for HRSA would have on its programs and services.

While the president’s budget proposes more than $400 million in cuts to HRSA’s discretionary budget authority, it uses mandatory funds to stay within the austere budget caps and make up for the cuts for a slight overall increase over FY16 levels.

“We think we’re critically important, because a lot of our programs are tailored to those who are most vulnerable and underserved,” said Macrae. “The president’s budget does reflect the critical needs that our programs address.”

Highlights of the budget request include:

  • $1.3 billion for health workforce programs — a $45 million increase over FY16 levels — which includes $380 million for the National Health Service Corps, part of which would be dedicated to addressing prescription drug abuse and heroin use and increasing access to mental health services;
  • $9 million for a new initiative through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to support hepatitis C treatment for people living with HIV; and
  • $15 billion over 10 years in new mandatory funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

The request, however, would eliminate HRSA’s Area Health Education Centers program, which supports training and education to improve the supply, diversity and distribution of health care professionals in rural and underserved areas through strategic partnerships. And though $10 million would be allocated to expand the Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Program that focuses on prevention, treatment and intervention of opioid misuse in rural communities, rural health programs would see a $5.4 million cut overall.

Many Americans rely on the programs and services HRSA provides, yet current budget caps in place make it impossible to make the needed investments in public health. “It sometimes makes it more challenging, getting the appropriate balance  between discretionary and mandatory [funding],” Macrae said. “We’re the fourth largest [HHS] budget, and while relatively speaking we’re pretty small — our agency makes a big impact on peoples’ lives.”