Tag Archives: health care costs

Speak up or Watch out: Why medical research is at risk with Sequestration

It’s all over the news: The federal government is headed for significant, across-the-board budget cuts. Sequestration, or 10 years of automatic spending cuts, is a self-inflicted consequence passed by Congress, aimed to be a drastic outcome of failing to agree on a federal deficit-reduction package. Some Members of Congress argue that the sequester will not have a significant impact; they claim that the 5.1% cuts made in 2013 are only a drop in the bucket and there is no need to worry. However, the amount of money that the National Institutes of Health will lose, $1.56 billion, could fund the entire National Institute of Mental Health for more than a year. Cuts to the National Science Foundation total $359 million, more than 80% of the entire FY12 budget from NSF for homeland security research, including emergency planning and response. Research!America’s fact sheet on the effects of sequestration on these agencies, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control can be found here.

What will cuts to NIH, NSF and other agencies mean to biomedical and health research?

The NIH and NSF fund the basic science that fuels medical innovation and the health services research that enables smart policy making by all levels of government and by health care providers in support of high-quality health care delivery. The CDC funds an enormous range of research and public health services essential to the basic health and safety of Americans. Cuts to these agencies will compromise medical progress, stymie deficit reduction and render it more difficult to reinvigorate our economy. Cuts to public health funding, which is already inadequate, will degrade the foundation for safe and healthy communities across our nation. In short, these cuts will have dramatic impact on the health of our nation. Polls commissioned by Research!America consistently show that Americans highly value medical research and would even pay higher taxes if they knew the dollars would be devoted to that research. And we will never bend the health care cost curve without medical research to overcome disabling and costly conditions like Alzheimer’s and health services research to identify and evaluate viable and patient-sensitive cost savings strategies.

Finally, cuts to funding for biomedical and health research jeopardize the product of years of investment in our nation’s research capabilities. Those investments have produced the most sophisticated and productive medical research enterprise in the world. If funding declines, so will opportunities for young scientists. So will the capacity for our nation’s researchers to break new ground. So will the pipeline that fuels private sector innovation and jobs.

Think about it: Advances in ongoing and promising medical research will invariably be halted due to a lack of funds for these projects. One such project is ongoing research at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC. There, researchers have worked for years on a preventative strategy for breast cancer focused on anti-estrogen treatment, and this work is ready to move into clinical trials. Without funding, this lifesaving research could be halted. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the frequency of metastatic breast cancer is on the rise in young women, a troubling trend in light of the threat to biomedical and health research funding.

So what can we do?

Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them how important it is to STOP sequestration! Click here to send an email now.

Sign the petition from AAAS to “Speak Up for Science.”

Share these resources with your professional network, and encourage your peers to speak up for research now!

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Stay away from this kisser on Valentine’s Day

You may be familiar with chocolate kisses and candy hearts on Valentine’s Day, but have you ever heard of “kissing bugs?” These insects, found throughout Latin America and parts of the United States, transmit Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that can lead to heart disease in both humans and animals. Chagas infects up to 10 million people worldwide and is a growing problem here in the U.S. It is estimated that 300,000 individuals here at home have Chagas and the disease costs the U.S. nearly $1 billion annually in lost productivity and health care costs. Some experts are also concerned about the growing number of animals with Chagas infections. A recent study showed that in Louisiana, up to 60% of dogs in some kennels have tested positive for Chagas. The Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio has reported Chagas in military working dogs, and several dogs overseas have actually had to return home because of symptoms from the disease, leaving the units they supported without explosive detection dogs. Clearly this is just one small part of the global story of Chagas as the disease costs thousands of lives and imposes a significant economic burden on all affected countries, most notably in Latin America. More research is necessary to better understand the true impact of Chagas in both animals and people and to develop more effective tools to combat this potentially deadly disease worldwide.

Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Bipartisan support is essential to science

Dear Research Advocate,

With the world listening, President Obama acknowledged the importance of science, STEM education and research to our nation’s economic competitiveness and, more generally, to the future our children face. Many Republicans have voiced similar views. While it is heartening that policy makers on both sides of the aisle believe in research, they also must cut dollars from the federal budget. The president noted this in his speech and also mentioned the need to tame rising health care costs. The intersection of research, rising health care costs, and deficit reduction is the exact spot where advocates need to jump in. As policy makers grapple with how to control health care costs, will they treat funding for biomedical and health research as part of the problem or part of the solution? As they consider deficit reduction, will the notion of investing in research as a job-producing, industry-sustaining, economic growth strategy even enter the discussions, or will research dollars be swept away as part of sequestration or ever more stringent caps on discretionary spending? The answer to both of those questions is the same: It’s up to us.

If you haven’t weighed in, consider it D-day. If you haven’t tried to recruit new advocates, now’s the time. Many, many more Americans must speak up and let their federal representatives know that medical progress is vitally important. Many, many more of us need to make the case that research is a deficit reduction strategy and essential if we are going to tackle the direct and indirect costs of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We must convince policy makers that while it may seem easier to make across-the-board cuts than to prioritize, this is counterproductive. Our polling shows that Americans don’t want the unintended consequences of across-the-board cuts. And they want biomedical and health research to be a priority. The possibility of cuts that incapacitate our health research agencies is real. Meanwhile, countries in Europe and Asia are continuing to boost investment. Funding rates for federally funded biomedical science in Germany, for example, are above 25% — quite a gap from the NIH, which is funding at historically low rates right now. All of our collective efforts now in these next few weeks — or the lack thereof — will have dramatic and lasting consequences.

An advantage we have and must maintain in the fight to save research is that support remains a bipartisan issue, championed by Republicans and Democrats alike. And that bipartisan support is long-standing, with several former Members of Congress continuing their leadership. Research!America Chair John Porter was highlighted as a Republican champion of science during his tenure in the House in a recent article in The Atlantic. Last week, former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) wrote an opinion piece pointing out that more than half of post-WWII economic growth can be attributed to technological innovation. Cite that fact in an email to the leaders of Congress, who are in the driver’s seat right now; send a copy to your representatives. You can personalize and send an email to members by clicking here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Merry Cliftmas?

Dear Research Advocate,

Are we heading over the fiscal cliff? You have probably seen the several public opinion polls saying most Americans now think it’s inevitable. (“Merry Cliftmas,” says Jon Stewart.) Our latest polling tracks with that of others — and adds a timely insight. Just when one might least expect Americans to voluntarily increase what they owe to Uncle Sam, more than 50% say they would be willing to pay $1 more per week if they were sure the dollars would go to medical research. See this finding and more in a new poll we commissioned to take the pulse of Americans at this high-stakes time in our history.

We have been asking about willingness to pay more in taxes for years now, but it is particularly relevant now while elected officials are talking about tax reform and so many people are rethinking the role of government. We hope that advocates will use our poll data, emphasizing that Americans believe research is a part of the solution to containing health care costs and a significant driver to our economy.

You’ve heard about the impact of the fiscal cliff (and possible solutions to it) on NIH and other agencies that support research, but what about the impact on private sector innovation? Our VP for policy and programs, Ellie Dehoney, points out that cuts to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates could create a disincentive for venture capitalists to invest in new medicines. Read the full article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. New investment in biotech is already down significantly from last year, a trend that does not bode well for patients waiting for innovative treatments.

According to a new brief from the Center for American Progress: “Our national investments in research and development as a percentage of discretionary public spending have fallen from a 17% high at the height of the space race in 1962 to about 9% today, reflecting a shift in priorities of our government.” That’s disturbing, the authors assert, since research and innovation are powerful economic drivers. Public sector funding is slipping in a key area just when we need it most. For more on how innovation powers the economy, see a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: The 2012 State New Economy Index. Wherever your state ranks, its future economic success depends on robust investment now in the knowledge economy.

United Health Foundation and its partners have released the 23rd annual America’s Health Rankings — a wonderful resource that tracks key state health indicators across the nation, providing fuel for targeted public health strategies. Investing in research that will open more doors to prevention of obesity is just one of the answers to the call to action issued by the report and its accompanying release.

To help our federal leaders understand how very much is at stake right now, we must all get involved in illustrating the impact slashing research funding will have on individuals, families, careers and business. The AAAS has launched an initiative enabling you to submit a comment and/or a video about current threats to R&D funding, information that will then be used for advocacy. Please take a moment to add your voice!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dying to know more…

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate gave us little to go on regarding research for health. Americans are dying to know more – many, quite literally dying – about what either presidential candidate would do to speed up medical progress in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and the host of other disabling and deadly health threats that breed suffering, compromise independence and drive spiraling health care costs. Add to that the pivotal role medical innovation plays in our economy, and Americans absolutely deserve to know whether candidates will champion or shortchange it. All of us must say to candidates: Tell us what you will do, share your views – candidates for president and Congress alike. Take 30 seconds to ask your candidates to speak out and then help more by sharing this alert.

Another issue that the candidates failed to adequately address in last night’s debate was sequestration, and that’s why we must continue to speak up. If more of us get involved we can shift the halt-the-sequester momentum into high gear – check out the following articles and then write your own op-ed: Athens (GA) Banner-HeraldMontgomery Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times highlighted a new AAAS report on the impact of sequestration (read here). The report provides estimates of just how much states stand to lose under sequestration, with California alone being deprived of over $11 billion in R&D funding over a 5-year period! How much does your state stand to lose? Find out via FASEB’s outstanding series of new fact sheets that illustrate the importance and impact of NIH funding close to home. Take a moment to find the fact sheet for your state or district and use this information in your advocacy efforts.

For years, our public polling has shown that Americans strongly support incentives for companies that are investing in R&D – investments that create jobs and foster innovation. An article recently published in The Atlantic drives this point home, calling on policy makers to not only expand the R&D tax credit but to make it permanent. This is a common-sense policy solution that would enhance our competitiveness at a time when other nations are boosting investment in research and creating new incentives to encourage the private sector to invest. We need to step up, or we will be left behind.

And, speaking of the global nature of science as well as economic interdependence, we are eager to hear the announcements of the Nobel Prizes, starting this coming Monday. Here’s a suggestion: Take the opportunity of the announcements to make a phone call, send an email or write a letter to the editor to call attention to the importance of maintaining strong support of science in this country. Doing so could prove critical in reversing the perception among Capitol Hill staffers that few members of the science community are engaged in the public policy conversation – volume matters and that means every one of us needs to step up.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley