With less than two weeks to go before across-the-board cuts (known as "sequestration") to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federally funded programs take effect, negotiations are at an impasse to reach a deal to avert the catastrophic funding cuts.
A number of proposals have been put forth in recent days by both sides in the negotiations, but neither side has yet to agree to anything put forth by the other. House Republican leaders are proceeding with efforts to pass their "Plan B" proposal which calls for those with incomes above $1 million to pay more in income taxes, as well as a separate measure that replaces looming spending cuts with a reduction in current discretionary spending limits and provides $300 billion in long-term savings in mandatory programs such as Medicare and Social Security. A fix for the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula used to calculate Medicare physician payments is not included in the House "Plan B" bill, though House Republicans are continuing to work on a measure to block upcoming payment cuts for Medicare physicians. Neither of the current proposals stand a chance of passing the Senate and would be vetoed by the President. The Obama Administration, meanwhile, has proposed a plan that would, among other things, cancel the sequester permanently and provide $200 billion in discretionary cuts split 50/50 between defense and nondefense programs (including NIH). The President's most recent proposal would also reportedly permanently repeal the SGR.
Without congressional intervention, NIH faces additional cuts of eight to 10 percent when sequestration takes effect January 2, 2013. Cuts of this magnitude will mean that an estimated 2,300 extramural grants will be eliminated, an entire generation of young investigators will be at greater risk to abandon their careers in research and medicine, and momentum will be slowed for the development of new treatments and cures for seriously ill patients with deadly diseases.
Throughout 2012, ASH engaged in an aggressive multifaceted "Fight 4 Hematology" campaign to protect research funding and take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit without further cutting NIH and other core federal programs. A key component of this campaign has been enhanced advocacy in support of NIH. The Society's efforts were recently highlighted in an opinion piece by ASH leadership in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as well as in an article in MedPage Toady about how physician groups are responding to NIH funding cuts. Links to additional information on ASH's efforts to protect NIH funding are included below.
ASH continues to advocate for averting funding cuts to NIH and other discretionary programs, but we need your help! Continued advocacy by hematologists over the next several days is crucial as Congress continues to attempt to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit. Your Senators and Representative need to hear from you today about the devastating impact these cuts will have on biomedical research and the need for them to take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit that doesn't further cut NIH and other core federal programs.
Simply visit the ASH Advocacy Center, enter your contact information, and click "Send Message." After you submit your message, use the "Tell a Friend" feature to forward the link to your colleagues and urge them to take action. If you prefer, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to be connected to the offices of your Senators and Representative, and leave a message based on the draft letter on the ASH Advocacy Center website. This will not take much time, but will have a huge impact.
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