FY22 Omnibus Offers Important Increases to NIH and NCI; Misses Mark on Cancer Prevention Funding and Access to Health Coverage

Proposed budget includes legislation to close a major tobacco loophole by authorizing FDA to regulate synthetic nicotine products and maintains access to telehealth services.

March 9, 2022

Washington, D.C., March 9, 2022— Tonight the House is considering a long-overdue FY2022 funding bill that addresses critical aspects of cancer research, prevention and access to care.

In a tough budget environment, the spending bill includes a $2.25 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including a $353 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI). It also provides $1 billion to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency on Health (ARPA-H), a new program dedicated to accelerating the pace of biomedical research for rare and difficult to treat diseases, including cancer. The budget holds flat funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), closes a major loophole the tobacco industry has been exploiting to further addict kids by authorizing FDA to regulate synthetic nicotine products as tobacco products, maintains access to telehealth services as extended under the public health emergency and includes additional, temporary funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

“The funding increase for NIH and NCI in the Omnibus appropriations bill is exactly the kind of significant year-over-year funding increase necessary to maintain momentum toward new and improved means of preventing, detecting, and treating cancer. This is a critical moment for the future of cancer research and prevention. The number of research project grant applications sent into NCI has jumped more than 50 percent in the last five years. This extraordinary demand for resources must be met with robust federal funding to accelerate the best research possible and to save more lives.

“If a fiscal year 2022 budget is not passed by the full Congress in short order, NCI may soon be forced to freeze issuance of new grants and make cuts to existing programs. We urge the Congress to pass an FY22 budget quickly to keep critical cancer research underway.

“We are also pleased to see members of Congress take on President Biden’s charge to reignite the cancer moonshot by providing additional resources through the creation of ARPA-H. ARPA-H could quickly bridge the gap between the lab and the patient with targeted innovation in areas of high unmet need while simultaneously benefiting from and bolstering the bedrock research being done at NIH and NCI. The decision to provide new funding for ARPA-H, while also providing NIH institutes and centers much needed additional resources will ensure the best, most promising research can advance quickly. ACS CAN will continue to advocate for more funding for this program in future budgets.

“For decades, the tobacco industry has worked to exploit any loophole it can to addict more people to the companies’ deadly products – products that kill more than 480,000 Americans every year and are responsible for one-third of cancer deaths. Claiming certain products, specifically e-cigarettes, are made from synthetic nicotine is just the industry’s latest trick to get products on the market without federal or state regulation and addict more lifelong customers. It is unacceptable for synthetic nicotine products to escape all regulation and be sold without any oversight. ACS CAN is grateful the Omnibus appropriations legislation addresses this glaring loophole by clarifying the definition of tobacco products includes any product that contains nicotine, regardless of the source of the nicotine. This will ensure dangerous, addictive products can no longer escape critical FDA oversight including regulation, the prohibition of misleading and false health claims and the federal age of sale restriction to 21.

​​​“In March 2022, ACS CAN sent, alongside coalition members, a letter to bicameral, bipartisan congressional leadership asking for synthetic nicotine to be regulated as tobacco by the FDA to ensure the agency has regulatory authority of synthetic nicotine products that are on the market currently without any oversight. ACS CAN has also asked FDA to take regulatory action against Puff Bar, given the product’s popularity among youth and its efforts to evade FDA tobacco product regulation. 

“ACS CAN is also pleased to see a $4 million increase for the Office on Smoking and Health, which operates programs that help prevent youth from starting to use tobacco and helps adults quit.

“If we are to realize the cancer moonshot goal and end cancer as we know it, we must invest in programs proven to prevent cancer and improve outcomes. We must fund the CDC cancer programs that are proven effective in preventing and detecting cancer early when it’s more treatable. Unfortunately, the Omnibus appropriations bill fails to do this. Another year of flat funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) is unacceptable. The FY22 budget does not provide the NBCCEDP the funding needed to meet increased demand for delayed screenings and continues to fall well short of being able to serve all the uninsured and underinsured patients who qualify. Early detection can be the difference between life and death in a cancer diagnosis, so ensuring more individuals have access to these screening programs is crucial to addressing cancer disparities and moving us closer to a world with less cancer. 

“Protecting funding for cancer screening programs for FY22 is also critical as need for these programs continues to rise. The pandemic has resulted in large numbers of Americans delaying or forgoing essential cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies, because they’re afraid of contracting the virus, they were unable to get screened due to pandemic-related medical closures or they’ve lost their employer sponsored health coverage as a result of pandemic-induced layoffs. These missed screenings in 2020 and 2021 are expected to lead to increased demand for CDC cancer prevention and detection programs in 2022 and 2023. We urge lawmakers to consider this and increase funding for these programs in the FY23 budget. 

Access to Care
“We are pleased Congress recognizes the importance of the Medicaid program and included language to extend funding for the program in Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories. For individuals facing a cancer diagnosis, insurance coverage through Medicaid can be the difference between life and death.  We urge Congress to pass a longer-term funding solution to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program. The unstable funding the program currently faces, hurts the ability for Medicaid to meet the needs of the Puerto Rican population. 

“The use of appropriate telehealth services also plays a crucial role in reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes by mitigating transportation barriers, alleviating barriers related to taking off from work or finding childcare to attend medical appointments, increasing access to specialty care that may not be available near an individual’s home and extending the reach of navigation services. 

“The pandemic highlighted the importance of telehealth particularly for cancer patients. Many of the telehealth flexibilities enacted during the COVID-19 public health emergency improved access to care for cancer patients. Continuing these flexibilities for a temporary period after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency is a positive step toward ensuring that people with cancer can continue to have the option to receive care via telehealth services. However, we encourage Congress take up permanent telehealth legislation to ensure individuals continue to have the option to see their providers this way. 

“On behalf of the more than 1.8 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, we urge Congress to quickly pass the FY22 bill in order to meet critical funding needs and minimize the negative impact of repeated continued resolutions. However, we also call on all Members of Congress to double down on cancer investment in the FY23 budget and pass a budget that reflects the critical need for medical research and disease prevention and improved access to care across a broad range of public health priorities, including cancer.”  

# # #