Tag Archives: sequester

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moneyball

Dear Research Advocate:

Just in time for the World Series, a national campaign to make evidence-based government spending decisions has been announced. Moneyball for Government, a project of Results for America, advocates prioritizing limited taxpayer dollars by investing strategically in what works, eschewing “gut level” instinct for metrics-driven decision-making. Stakeholders in medical and health research sometimes have difficulty measuring or agreeing on metrics that matter; it’s time to work through this challenge so that when stakeholders talk about research accountability — in the current budget conversations or in any context — we can speak with one metric-driven voice to emphasize the returns on research investment in both lives and money saved.

Research!America is working to assure our message is in the forefront of the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee’s deliberations. We have written to the committee expressing the importance of investing in medical and health research to address the national debt and deficit. We urge the committee to eliminate the sequester; it continues to take a toll on our economy and our society, in part by eroding our capacity to innovate in the medical and health fields. Please join us in reaching out to your representatives to share the importance of prioritizing investments in research. Continue reading →

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Sequestration not hurting? Ask cancer patients

An excerpt of an op-ed by Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca, chief executive and managing partner of North Shore Hematology/Oncology Associates published in Newsday.

NSHOA kkSome news reports suggest that sequestration is not having an impact on our country. Those reports are blind to what is happening to cancer care and the devastating impact of the sequester cut to cancer patients.

Sequestration resulted when Congress could not agree to federal budget cuts. Many made dire predictions about the automatic budget cuts required by sequestration, including an across-the-board cut to Medicare, but once they were imposed, much of the doomsaying ended.

Few understand the harmful impact that the cuts are having on cancer care, and their potential to seriously imperil its future.

Less than eight years ago, close to 90 percent of cancer treatment was delivered in community cancer clinics. We pride ourselves on providing our patients with the highest quality cancer treatment in a convenient location, a caring environment, and at a lower cost. It’s now estimated that less than 70 percent of cancer care is delivered in clinics like ours, with treatment increasingly shifting to the more expensive, and typically less convenient, hospital setting. With roughly 50 percent of cancer care covered by Medicare, hospital cancer care costs taxpayers $6,500 more per patient per year and seniors $650 more in co-pays compared with care from community-based cancer centers, according to a study by Milliman, a leading health care market research firm. The expense is even greater for patients covered by private insurance.

Read the full op-ed here.

Budget sequestration could soon cost us in lives

An excerpt of an op-ed by Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH, professor of the Earle Mack School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health published in Philly.com.

Robert I. Field

Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH

What do we get when Congress cuts federal spending across-the-board? Does it bring lower taxes, smaller deficits, and less bureaucracy?

How about worse health care, less medical innovation, and lost lives?

The budget sequester that Congress enacted in 2011 began to take effect this year with spending cuts for most federal programs. So far, the majority of Americans have seen little change. Some may even applaud the idea of forcing the federal government to make due with less.

But the sequester is about to exert an especially sinister effect that lies just outside of public view. It could cripple medical research.

The National Institutes of Health is the largest single source of biomedical research funding in the world. It supports work at most universities in the United States and at many around the world.

That’s not just important to the physicians and researchers who work at those institutions. It’s vitally important to everyone. NIH funding stands behind the development of almost every major drug that has emerged over the past 50 years. You can see the impact of this agency every time you open your medicine cabinet. It has also brought us countless medical devices and procedures. And led to 83 Nobel prizes. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Additions to the Sequestration Files

Dear Research Advocate:

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee approved the funding bill that includes the Food and Drug Administration. The bill allocates nearly $100 million above the post-sequester levels. Unfortunately, the baseline budgets in the House are so low that this increase is still lower than FY12 FDA funding. We must not fall into the trap of lowering our expectations and applauding an artificial victory. The true mark of success is funding that keeps up with need. We must keep working.

As demonstrated particularly by the 18.6% cut targeted for the House LHHS appropriations FY14 budget, the pressure to shrink government by slashing discretionary spending shows no sign of abating. This pressure continues despite the damage nationwide in furloughs, layoffs, shuttered labs, patients turned away from clinical trials, and uncertainty around the ability of federal agencies to accomplish the basic government functions that help sustain an advanced society.

Speaking of mounting evidence against consequence-blind budget cuts, the lab that quickly identified the ricin toxin in letters sent recently to elected officials is CDC-funded. The Spokane (WA) Regional Health District Bioterrorism Lab is threatened with closure due to budget cuts (read more in the Homeland Security News Wire report). Of course it’s not only ricin-laced letters that must be stopped in their tracks. For example: The president has declared an emerging respiratory infection from the Middle East (known as MERS-CoV) a “potential public health emergency.” How can we expect the CDC to be effective in identifying, preventing and combating this or other global threats without the resources needed to do its job? Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Just as competitive as the Olympics, but not on the national radar screen

Dear Research Advocate,

This week’s Nobel Prize announcements are a fine reminder of how government-supported research plays a critical role in expanding our knowledge, leading not only to worldwide recognition but taking us closer to understanding and curing disease. The winners of the prize for chemistry, Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Howard Hughes Medical Research investigator and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Dr. Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine both received grants from the National Institutes of Health, as did one of the physiology and medicine awardees, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. They are among the many Nobel laureates whose important work throughout the years has been supported by the American taxpayer.

Wouldn’t it be great if candidates for election this November were talking about the Nobel Prizes? Among the responses to our voter education initiative we received this week was the telling remark from one incumbent that not only does his campaign not have a science advisor, he believes that no candidate (for the House) does! Although we know for a fact that he isn’t entirely correct, his perception is close enough to reality to give an insight into the priority level our issue has in this election. We’ll know that candidates care about worldwide recognition in science — which is at least as competitive as the Olympics — when they talk up American “wins” of the Nobel science prizes. Don’t let the candidates’ apparent disinterest in the Nobel stop you from drawing attention to the awardees’ accomplishments. Write a letter to the editor today!

Far from being a priority, research, and thus medical progress, is threatened by the specter of sequester. Research advocates must work together to convey the same message to policy makers: prioritize health research. Life Technologies, a Research!America member, has launched a new grassroots tool that makes it quick and easy to reach out to your representatives to urge them to halt the sequester before it’s too late.

We’re continuing to hear more about the local impact of sequestration, and that is a good thing if we expect to stop it in its tracks. Typical of explanations we’re seeing is that of Dr. Bill Chin, executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School, who describes sequestration as a “knife hanging over our heads … About a quarter of new grants won’t be funded and funding will be reduced for current projects working on cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, all of which have had remarkable advances recently.” The New York Times, citing a report from AAAS, explains that federal R&D funding could be cut by more than $12 billion in 2013 alone. The article calls out the vital role of the government in incubating the new ideas that are commercialized by the private sector, leading to new jobs and even new industries. Talk about return on investment! (And we should talk about it!) Clearly, maintaining and boosting our investments in research is one of the key ingredients for repowering and revitalizing our economy.

Vice President Joe Biden will be facing off with Rep. Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate tonight. We can expect health and health care to be part of the discussion, which provides an opportunity to connect the dots to research. As you monitor the discussion, be sure to weigh in on social media to remind the candidates that research for health should be a priority as we seek to drive innovation and medical progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Prime Time for Research?

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate will be held Wednesday, October 3 at the University of Denver. This debate will likely be the only one in which health issues are discussed: Will the candidates talk about research and innovation in that context? This is our chance to speak up, whether they do (bravo!) or don’t (why not??). While watching, include the Twitter handle for the debates (@NewsHour) in your tweets, and afterwards, send a letter to the editor of your local paper. This is the final phase of our Your CandidatesYour Health voter education initiative. We know from experience over the years that all of us – stakeholders and advocates for research – become much more energized as the election nears. Be sure to join your colleagues and all fellow advocates in reaching out to the candidates you will see on your ballot on November 6. Tell them that knowing their views on our issues will influence your vote. In fact, don’t wait for the debate next week – follow this link and send your candidates an email today. Then, send the same link to three people you know, asking them to take action. Together, we can make research a campaign issue, building champions we can rely on in 2013 and beyond.

If you are looking for new arguments to make your case, we have recommendations for you. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has released a startling report about the long-term economic impacts of sequester, estimating that sequester could cost our economy between $203 billion and $860 billion in GDP! As if this weren’t bad enough, the cuts would result in 200,000 jobs lost in 2013 alone. You can find the full report here and watch the webcast of the report rollout here. An op-ed that appeared in The Week by former Sen. Bill Frist provides additional grist for the mill – he placed familiar statistics into context, making a compelling case for ensuring that medical research is a top national priority. One of many great quotes: “In 2010 alone, the most recent year we have accurate numbers for, medical research accounted for $69 billion worth of economic activity here in America and $90 billion worth of exports. Not to mention NIH funding alone created 480,000 new, good jobs. All in one year.”

In case you missed it, Dr. Francis Collins was on BioCentury TV this past weekend. It’s definitely a segment worth watching – Dr. Collins cites statistic after statistic demonstrating why it is so important to stop sequestration in its tracks. This Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET on WUSA-9 in the D.C. metro area, Research!America Board member The Hon. Mike Castle will be on the air on BioCentury to discuss what the future may hold for research. Be sure to tune in! Indeed, many of our Board members are actively advocating for research: “Speak up now or suffer the consequences later,” said Research!America Board Chair, The Hon. John Porter, at a forum convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) this week. Porter spoke about the consequences of apathy among scientists in a budgetary and political environment that poses dramatic risks for science, and again emphasized the importance of the coming election: “the most important in my lifetime.” Not the time for advocates to sit on the sidelines.

Several large pharmaceutical companies, including many Research!America members, have come together to form a new nonprofit to help streamline and accelerate the drug development process. Transcelerate Biopharma is the new outfit, based in Philadelphia. The aim is to develop a variety of standards to improve the efficiency of drug discovery, a pursuit that is notoriously costly and lengthy. See this recent Forbes article to learn more about Transcelerate Biopharma, ably led by CEO Garry Neil, formerly of Johnson & Johnson. In a note of synchronicity, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) released a new report urging FDA to speed approval of drugs for high-risk patients. For more information, read the article in the Wall Street Journal and see the full report here.

Finally, for an excellent overview of the “fiscal cliff,” see a new brief from Bloomberg Government, detailing implications for our economy and some insight into what our next Congress may look like.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: New Poll – Likely Voters Say to Congress: Stay in Session, Avoid Taking Us Over the Fiscal Cliff

Dear Research Advocate,

To call attention to the unintended consequences of the sequester, we held a press briefing today in partnership with United for Medical Research. Two Members of Congress who are still in town, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA), spoke about the high priority the nation must place on NIH and about the usefulness of data from a new national public opinion poll showing that 51% of Americans say that across-the-board cuts are not the right way to reduce the deficit. To see more poll results for use in your advocacy, click here. Other speakers this morning spoke about what’s at stake for everyone who cares about the research enterprise: patient hopes for cures delayed; industries unable to create new jobs and drive innovation in frustration about U.S. policies and lack of predictability; young scientists becoming discouraged and accepting offers to work in other countries – countries that have made research a clear priority. All of this further burdens our national deficit – we need research to combat the rising cost of health care by delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and a host of other diseases. As Rep. Markey said, it will take high energy and coordination to get our message of research as a priority heard during the lame-duck session. You will be hearing more from us about how to assure that happens, but in the meantime, don’t forget that there is an important election going on (see below).

First a quick recap of what sequestration means, according to a new OMB report. Most agencies would be hit with an 8.2% cut – NIH alone would lose $2.5 billion in 2013! It is still unclear what level of discretion agency heads would have in carrying out these cuts. Losses at the CDC would be $464 million, the FDA would lose $318 million, and the NSF would be cut by $577 million. See our new one-pager with the latest data.

There is an additional dimension to the FDA cut that should be of significant concern to all advocates for medical progress. Part of the cut diverts industry-supplied user fees into deficit reduction. Those fees are paid by industry for the express purpose of ensuring FDA has the resources to review new medicines and medical devices on a timely basis. The precedent of playing bait and switch with user fees is a dangerous one, particularly since these fees are voluntary. Why should the drug and device industries agree to pay user fees in the future knowing that still more time will be lost in approvals – and patients will be forced to wait longer for new treatments and cures. We must work together to address it.

We all need to do our part to make sure the media is covering all the aspects of the threat of sequestration, making it more evident to all Americans just what is at stake. We’ve already seen National Journal release an article about our new polling data. The Atlantic released a story about how sequester would impact science budgets, citing another recent article from ScienceInsider. The Scientist also reported on the story, quoting Ellie Dehoney, our VP for policy and programs. This week, the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin reported how the cuts at NIH could impact the Mayo Clinic, a Research!America member. For those of you that may have contacts with local or national media, now is the time to let them know about the impact where you live.

We are only a month and half away from the election. We know from many of our members and partners that they are calling/writing/emailing campaigns to urge participation in the Your Candidates –Your Health voter education initiative. Please join the momentum and help drive the campaign … we don’t have much time left to make it clear to candidates that it isn’t only lobbyists and professional advocates (people like us at Research!America) who care about research and want them to talk about it. Every candidate should be hearing from hundreds of concerned stakeholders. Make sure you are in that number!

Demonstrations of the value of NIH and NSF research will soon be honored by Research!America member FASEB. Submit events, exhibits or web-based outreach that highlight the value that research agencies deliver and compete for a cash prize! For details, click here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley