Congress to Tackle Funding Cuts During “Lame Duck” Session; NIH Funding in Jeopardy
Prior to adjourning for the November elections, Congress approved a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government running through March 27, 2013. The CR provides funding for most government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at fiscal year 2012-enacted levels plus a temporary 0.6 percent across the board increase.
However, the CR does not alter the sequester (additional across-the-board cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011), meaning that without congressional action before the end of the calendar year, discretionary programs such as NIH will face significant funding cuts on January 2, 2013. According to a report issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget in September, NIH would be subject to cuts totaling 8.2 percent as part of the sequester. This draconian measure means that as many as 2,300 NIH grants could be eliminated.
It is critical that all Members of Congress hear from ASH members about the impact that inadequate funding has on medical research and the need for our lawmakers to take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit that doesn’t further cut NIH and other core federal programs. To take action, please visit the ASH Advocacy Center page (grassroots.hematology.org) and join ASH’s campaign by sending an email to your Senators and Representative.
Take Action to Help ASH Fight for NIH Funding
The Society is working hard to let Congress know that sequestration must be averted, but we need your help! Visit www.hematology.org/FightNow for a list of easy and meaningful actions you can take to make your voice heard about the impact that inadequate funding has on medical research and the need for Congress to take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit that doesn’t further cut NIH and other core federal programs. Tell ASH your story.
Physicians Face 27 Percent Medicare Payment Cut January 1
Physicians are scheduled to receive a 27 percent cut from Medicare reimbursement beginning January 1, 2013, unless Congress takes legislative action to prevent it. ASH strongly opposes the proposed cuts to physicians and has long advocated for repeal of the flawed sustainable growth rate formula that mandates the reductions. ASH advocates for replacement legislation that would recognize the real-world need for an adequate and stable physician payment system.
ASH strongly believes the solution to this physician payment problem is to replace permanently the current payment formula with a system that keeps pace with the cost of caring for our nation’s seniors and that does not threaten the viability of physician practices. Continuing the stop-gap approach of enacting temporary patches serves no one well.
However, a major barrier to reforming physician reimbursement is the cost of repealing the current payment formula. Most Members of Congress have indicated that they strongly oppose the potentially devastating cuts. The challenge does not lie in convincing Congress that the program is ill-conceived, rather the problem is finding a way to pay for maintaining Medicare reimbursement at the current level. To do so will require that lawmakers cut spending elsewhere or locate “offsets” to cover the loss of profit that that would otherwise accrue to the budget by reducing Medicare reimbursement rates. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a one-year patch to block the scheduled cut in physician Medicare payment rates would require offsets totaling $18.5 billion over 10 years, while a permanent solution would cost tens of billions of dollars more.
The cost of a permanent solution is expensive and the details of the fix will be complex, requiring time, debate, and compromise to work out. Consequently, the Society is advocating for Congress to pass a statutory payment update when it returns in November, before cuts take effect again, that lasts at least through the end of 2013.
All Members of Congress need to hear from their physician constituents about the need to avert the scheduled physician payment cut. ASH has developed an online advocacy campaign so hematologists can easily contact their Members of Congress and share their concerns. Please visit the ASH Advocacy Center page (grassroots.hematology.org) to participate in the Society’s online advocacy campaign today.
NIH Names New Director of National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, has appointed Christopher P. Austin, MD, as director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Dr. Austin succeeds Thomas Insel, MD, who had been serving as NCATS Acting Director since the Center’s establishment in December 2011.
A developmental neurogeneticist by training, Dr. Austin earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Princeton and his medical degree from Harvard. He completed clinical training in internal medicine and neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in genetics at Harvard. Dr. Austin began his NIH career in 2002 as senior advisor to the director for translational research at the National Human Genome Research Institute. His other NIH roles include serving as director of the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program and the National Chemical Genomics Center, and as scientific director of the Center for Translational Therapeutics. Since the NCATS launch in December 2011, Dr. Austin had served as director of the program’s Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation.
back to top