As reform efforts ramped up this spring, the ACR has been approached and has weighed in multiple times with recommendations for the new system. I have met with Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), who represents parts of Philadelphia, on two occasions, and we have provided input to assure appropriate recognition of cognitive specialists in the bipartisan Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (Schwartz/Heck, H.R. 574). Outcomes of congressional action are never certain, but the strength of our expertise and the relationships that we have developed with members of Congress continue to place us in the right position to effect change in a positive way.
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Explore This IssueApril 2013
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Fulfilling the Promise of Research
Still other forces are at play, threatening to limit the promise of medical research to improve the lives of our patients. Our nation’s economy is facing many challenges, and our lawmakers are seeking ways to cut federal spending in order to reduce the escalating deficit. Over the past two years, Congress has failed to pass a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit. Sequestration, intended as a deterrent to inaction, was offered as a last-ditch solution to our budget deficits. Unfortunately, these Draconian cuts came to pass this March. This included an 8% cut in funding for the NIH, which could translate into 2,300 fewer grants, according to NIH officials. While $71 million in funding was restored by Congress for FY13, with a $1.5 billion sequestration cut this year the impact on research programs is, and will continue to be, severe.
The ACR has been a strong advocate for increasing research funding, so we mobilized our membership to contact Congress when it seemed that cuts were imminent. We must ensure continued progress in the areas of improved diagnostics, better prevention strategies, and new treatments for our patients with arthritis, autoimmune disease, and other chronic conditions. We must ensure that research careers are not jeopardized at a time when we face critical workforce challenges in our academic rheumatology units. We face the real possibility that, as arthritis and autoimmune conditions become more prevalent and our understanding more complex, our workforce will be unable to meet the challenge of treating patients with rheumatic diseases.
Will we have the strength to help prevent cuts in health research funding, and protect the potential for new discoveries and the viability of the research engine? I believe that there is strength in the ACR membership. The promise of the breakthroughs we have seen compels us to seize this moment—to act to ensure the future of discovery in our field. It is up to all of us, working together through the ACR, to bring this critical message to our nation’s lawmakers. As we have mobilized to fix the flawed SGR, so too must we find ways to ensure that these critical research investments continue.