ASH Seeks to Increase Funding for NIH in FY 2011
As this issue went to press, the House and Senate had yet to finalize a fiscal year (FY) 2011 Budget Resolution, the budgetary blueprint for each Appropriations subcommittee to use as a guideline in drafting their respective funding bills. Congressional leaders remained hopeful, however, that budgetary guidelines would be in place by early summer in order to allow House and Senate appropriators to begin formal work on all 12 of the annual spending bills. ASH, along with the biomedical research community, continues to advocate for $35 billion for NIH in FY 2011 to help ensure that NIH does not face a funding crisis when a two-year allotment of $10.4 billion in stimulus funding for research expires. ASH encourages all members to visit the ASH Advocacy Center to take action to help influence the budget process and support increased funding for NIH. Your senators and representatives need to hear from you about ensuring adequate NIH funding in FY 2011.
Dr. Donald Berwick Nominated for CMS Administrator
President Barack Obama has nominated Dr. Donald M. Berwick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the federal agency responsible for implementing many new programs enacted in health reform. Dr. Berwick, who is currently the CEO of the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement and a Pediatrics and Health Policy professor at Harvard University, has devoted his career to examining methods of delivering care more safely and efficiently to saves lives and reduce wasteful spending. Dr. Berwick could face tough confirmation hearings, which are expected to begin in July. Although he has extensive leadership and health policy experience, he has no previous government executive experience. In addition, Republican senators might seek a hold on his nomination or use his confirmation hearings to show their lingering displeasure with the health-care overhaul.
Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus to Head NCI
President Barack Obama has named Dr. Harold Varmus, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, to head the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at NIH. Dr. Varmus, who is currently president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, shared his Nobel Prize with J. Michael Bishop for demonstrating the cellular origins of the oncogene of a chicken retrovirus, which led to the isolation of many cellular genes that normally control growth and development and are frequently mutated in human cancer. Dr. Varmus will become the first former NIH director — a position he held under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1999 — and Nobel laureate to lead NCI. Dr. Varmus’ appointment does not require Senate confirmation; he is expected to start at NCI in mid-July.
NIH Proposes Revisions to Financial Conflict-of-Interest Regulations
On May 20, NIH unveiled a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking to amend current regulations governing the disclosure, reporting, and management of financial conflicts of interest. NIH proposes to make several revisions to the rules governing financial disclosure that have been in place since 1995, including:
Lowering the threshold for determining if a "significant financial interest" exists to $5,000.
Requiring investigators to disclose to their institutions all "significant financial interests" related to their institutional responsibilities and research.
Requiring institutions to review the "significant financial interests" disclosed by investigators to determine those that may or may not impact NIH-funded research and to post these financial interests on a publicly accessible website.
NIH will be soliciting public comments and input through July 20. ASH will be reviewing this issue in detail and submitting comments in response to the NPRM. All ASH members are encouraged to submit any particular concerns or comments on this issue to ASH Research Advocacy Manager Tracy Roades at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress Struggles to Address Medicare Physician Payment
As this issue went to press, Congress was still seeking agreement on a long-term solution to address impending Medicare physician payment cuts, and physicians were scheduled to receive a 21 percent payment cut until legislation restoring the cut could be enacted. Despite reaching agreement in mid-May on a proposal that would have provided a four-year physician payment fix, House lawmakers scaled down a physician payment adjustment proposal to respond to concerns about the cost of the overall legislation. Under the compromise, physicians would receive a 2.2 percent increase effective June 2010 and a one percent increase on January 1, 2011. Physician payment rates would revert to the current law formula on January 1, 2012, which will result in an estimated 33 percent payment cut that year. However, it was still not confirmed that Senate lawmakers would agree to the compromise. Citing insufficient time to consider the legislation before the congressional Memorial Day recess, the Senate adjourned until June 7 and the 21 percent Medicare physician payment cut scheduled for 2010, which had been postponed three times already this year, technically took effect on June 1. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, however, issued instructions to its contractors to postpone processing claims for Medicare physician services provided on or after June 1 for 10 days to provide time for Congress to complete its action and overturn the scheduled cut retroactive to June 1. Updated information about this issue is available on the ASH website. Physicians are encouraged to visit the ASH Advocacy Center to contact their representatives and senators to urge a permanent fix of the physician payment formula.
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