Congress Passes Final FY 2012 NIH Funding Bill
In late December, two-and-a-half months into fiscal year (FY) 2012, Congress cleared a final FY 2012 spending package that included funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For NIH, the agreement appropriates $30.69 billion, an increase of $1.7 million over FY 2011. However, NIH and many other federal programs are subject to across-the-board cuts, which, when applied, will mean that NIH will receive only a fraction of that increase in FY 2012.
The agreement reduces the salary cap on extramural grants from Executive Level I ($199,700 in 2011) to Executive Level II ($179,700). The package also includes language to implement the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and eliminate the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), transferring the various NCCR programs to other institutes and centers. The agreement also provides NCATS with up to $10 million for the Cures Acceleration Network.
NIH Appoints Interim NCATS Leadership
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, has designated Thomas Insel, MD, as the acting director and Kathy L. Hudson, PhD, as acting deputy director of the newly created National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Drs. Insel and Hudson have been deeply involved in establishing NCATS and will lead the process of bringing the Center into being and getting its programs underway while NIH conducts a nationwide search for the first NCATS director.
Dr. Insel has served as director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at NIH since 2002. Dr. Hudson has served as deputy director for Science, Outreach, and Policy at NIH since October 2010. Drs. Insel and Hudson will continue to serve in their current roles while serving in these acting positions at NCATS.
Congress Reaches Last-Minute Agreement to Temporarily Avert Medicare Physician Payment Cuts
In a dramatic turn of events, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives bowed to pressure from President Obama, Senate Democrats, and some in their party and passed a legislative package of two-month extensions that would, among other things, block the 27.4 percent Medicare payment cut to doctors otherwise set to begin January 1, 2012.
The deal marked the end of weeks of uncertainty over the fate of Medicare physician payments in 2012 and was a striking retreat for House Republicans who previously rejected a bipartisan proposal passed by the Senate that would block the 27.4 percent Medicare payment cut to doctors and give a two-month extension for unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and for a Social Security payroll tax reduction.
Although both the House and Senate agreed on the need to avert the physician payment cuts, at issue were differences over the length of the extensions as well as how to pay for the measure. The Senate limited the provisions to two months because it could not find ways to fund a longer fix. House Republicans, however, insisted on a longer-term package and initially refused to vote on the Senate-passed measure, making it appear unlikely that an agreement would be reached prior to January 1 when the cuts were scheduled to begin.
The agreement means that Medicare physician payment rates are extended until March 1, 2012, and congressional negotiators will need to consider a long-term extension when they return to Washington after their holiday recess. For updates on this issue, please go to www.hematology.org/practice.
ASH Calls on Congress to Take Immediate Action to Prevent Drug Shortages; Obama Administration Issues Interim Final Rule
As part of the Society’s efforts to combat drug shortages, ASH urged a number of congressional committees to expand authority of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and provide economic incentives to manufacturers of low cost generic drugs to prevent drug shortages.
In response to ASH advocacy, on December 15 the Obama Administration issued an interim final rule that will help prevent prescription drug shortages. The rule will require manufacturers that are the only producer of certain critical drugs to report to the FDA all interruptions in manufacturing of products. The rule builds on recommendations ASH made on the importance of early notification by manufacturers of disruptions in drug production. For more information about hematology drugs in shortage, please visit www.hematology.org/News/2011/7389.aspx.
President Obama Nominates Marilyn Tavenner for CMS Administrator
President Obama has nominated Marilyn Tavenner to become administrator of the& Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Ms. Tavenner, who has served as principal deputy administrator since joining CMS in February 2010, began serving as acting CMS administrator December 5. Ms. Tavenner’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee’s chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), has been noncommittal about a confirmation hearing date.
back to top