Tag Archives: tax and entitlement reform

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”– Nelson Mandela

Dear Research Advocate:

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Joint Budget Committee released a two-year budget agreement Tuesday night. The package involves $63 billion in partial sequestration relief over two years, offset by fees (not taxes!) and a wide variety of cost-sharing arrangements, AKA “pay fors.” While it remains unclear whether user fees will be subjected to any sequester in 2014 and 2015, the already-sequestered FDA user fees are locked up and cannot be used to accelerate medical advances. This is a missed opportunity that patients can’t afford. While not a perfect deal in many respects, the House is expected to approve the Murray-Ryan budget deal within moments, and the Senate is expected to pass it next week.

For the advocacy community, the overall budget number is important, but the appropriations process that follows is crucial. The funding levels for NIH, CDC and AHRQ depend on the funding allocated to the Labor-H subcommittee and the FDA on the Agricultural subcommittee. Since dealmakers have not dealt with tax or entitlement reform, this will involve robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it won’t be pretty. Decisions will be made soon, as Congress is working against a January 15 deadline. Please consider contacting your Members of Congress to urge them to weigh in on how funding is allocated to appropriators and, in short order, allocated by appropriators — ask them to maximize funding for NIH, CDC, AHRQ, FDA and NSF. A report released this week by United for Medical Research, featuring a collection of stories about the negative impact that sequestration has had on NIH as well as the impact on individual research laboratories, can help you make the case. Continue reading →

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Majority of Americans Believe Another Government Shutdown Likely in Coming Months; Last One Harmful to Medical Research

New National Poll Reveals Many Respondents Predict China will Surpass U.S.
in Science and Innovation by 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—December 3, 2013—Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown in the months ahead as Congress continues to debate deficit and budget issues, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. This sentiment is shared across party affiliations: Democrats (66%), Republicans (65%) and Independents (65%). There is also consensus across party lines that government dysfunction has consequences. A majority of Americans (57%) say the shutdown in October caused significant harm to many government-funded programs including medical research, defense and education. Democrats (68%) and about half of Republicans (49%) and Independents (51%) agree.

On the topic of sequestration, a plurality (44%) says Congress must tackle tax and entitlement reform to reduce the deficit instead of continuing the 10 years of across-the-board cuts; another 16% say sequestration is not the right way to reduce the deficit. Less than a quarter (23%) believe the across-the-board cuts are a way of ensuring that many government programs share the pain, and 17% say they’re not sure. In general, 62% of Americans say they’re concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on advances in health care such as the development of new drugs and other treatments.

“Our poll demonstrates uneasiness among many Americans about the ramifications of deep spending cuts to programs that are critical to our health and well-being,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Americans want Congress to reach a budget deal that protects medical and health research, at least in part because of concern that our nation is at risk of losing our global leadership position in science and innovation.” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A “dark future for science?”

Dear Research Advocate:

Although Congress officially returns next week, many Members are back in Washington as the debate about the crisis in Syria commands center stage. Members also face looming fiscal deadlines, with only nine legislative days scheduled in September to act on those and a large backlog of other legislation. Given all this, it is not hard to predict how Congress will handle the long- or short-term budget resolutions, debt ceiling, the future of sequestration, tax and entitlement reform, and a myriad of other interconnected items: They will put off decision-making.

Thus a continuing resolution (“CR”), extending FY13 budgets, looks likely, once again kicking the can down the road and, in doing so, kicking patients and researchers alike into the ditch. And things will be worse than the terrible FY13 numbers, given that the Budget Control Act mandates less discretionary spending in FY14 than in FY13 — almost certainly prompting agencies to further decrease their spending while waiting for what might well be a still-lower final appropriations bill (more details here.)

This adds up to “a dark future for science” according to NIH Director Francis Collins. He and other leaders of science believe that the nation is increasingly underprepared to meet existing — not to mention emerging — health threats. Now is the time to hold Congress accountable for avoiding a dark future by making your voice heard. Click here to send a message to your representatives that medical research at NIH, CDC and our other health research agencies must be championed in the upcoming fiscal debates — not cut, not put on hold, but prioritized, championed. After participating online, magnify your voice as a broad coalition joins forces on September 18 to participate in the American Association for Cancer Research’s Hill Day, urging Congress to champion the National Institutes of Health. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Don’t Settle for the “New Normal”

Dear Research Advocate,

Yesterday, the House passed a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year that includes this year’s cuts from sequestration along with an additional one percent across-the-board cut.  The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration, where we are likely to see higher funding levels than the House version, but with sequestration still in place. Congress seems anxious to avoid the brinksmanship and the government shutdown threats that have characterized past debates. While the less rancorous environment surrounding the CR is a welcome change, the complacency around sequestration is not.  As research advocates, we cannot let these cuts stand.

Sequestration isn’t a one-year cut, it is ten years worth of cuts, none of which are evidence-based.  We may be looking at the early stages of an elusive “grand bargain” as the president meets with Republican senators to discuss tax and entitlement reform – two key pieces for solving the deficit puzzle. Eliminating sequestration must be part of that bargain. In addition, we must ensure that funding for biomedical and health research, including the resources FDA needs to do its job, are assigned a high priority in fiscal year 2014. That should be reflected in the budget resolution and obviously in the FY 2014 funding bill.

None of this will be easy. Working together, advocates have raised the profile of medical research with policymakers and the media. We need to turn the volume up louder yet on it, while cultivating more champions in Congress.  Continuing to engage the media is part of that equation.  Some of the largest news outlets in the country including Fox News, NBC, and CBS, and a number that are new to our issue including Al Jazeera quoted Research!America when writing about sequestration’s impact on science. The Economist published a thoughtful piece about how cutting American health research will harm the world. Industry is adding its voice with an op-ed in Forbes coauthored by three legendary executives, including Research!America board member and former NIH director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Marc Tessier-Lavigne of The Rockefeller University and P. Roy Vagelos, Chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. I also want to highlight a letter that Dr. Herb Pardes, Executive Vice Chairman at New York Presbyterian and Research!America board member, sent to the President.  He captures the very themes that will anchor our advocacy going forward.

At the same time as policymakers were cutting federally funded research dollars, researchers were delivering another astonishing breakthrough – the real possibility of a functional cure for HIV. This remarkable achievement, bringing us a step closer to a world free from the scourge of HIV/AIDS, would not have been possible were it not for NIH funding that supported the research and development of anti-retroviral drugs. The CDC is also in the news, with troubling warnings about the spread of “nightmare bacteria” – germs that can be deadly because they are resistant to traditional medicines.  As CDC works to track and halt the spread of these germs and fulfill the numerous other public health functions for which they are responsible, the agency is not only contending with sequestration. Over the past several years, CDC has been subject to some of the deepest cuts of any health agency. Our Nation is fast approaching a tipping point.  Are public health and safety and the progress borne of medical innovation priorities, or not?

As many of you already know our annual events are coming up next week! Please join us for the Annual Meeting (free of charge to members) to hear remarks from Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), a freshman member of Congress who is already championing research, and also John Crowley, CEO of Amicus Therapeutics. I hope to see you all at our Annual Advocacy Awards Dinner later that evening – seats are selling fast, but still available.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley