It appears funding the federal government and budget appropriations will again be managed by continuing resolutions. This creates yet another perennial problem for NIH funding. Although about half of NIH sequester cuts were eventually rolled back, funding is still below pre-sequester levels, and it appears the NIH will be funded near the same level as last year. We all know that this is unacceptable. It seriously jeopardizes the U.S. medical research enterprise. The important work of many of our members is threatened.
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We will continue to fight for restoration and increases in NIH funding. We also hope that new solutions are adopted by Congress, such as Senator Tom Harkin’s introduction of the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act. This forward-thinking proposal would increase NIH funding by exempting it from traditional budget caps.
Also not addressed by Congress were cuts to Part B drug reimbursements. The ACR is addressing Medicare reimbursement cuts by partnering with oncologists to support H.R. 1416, which would reverse sequester cuts to Part B drugs and reimburse lost monies. Although taking a piece-by-piece approach to the sequester has been an unpopular approach with many Democrats, we remain optimistic that our persistence will prevail.
State & Local Advocacy
We must advocate at all levels of government, and as I have described before, the ACR has increased its focus on issues primarily decided at the state level. We are working with state rheumatology societies. Under the leadership of the Affiliate Society Council chaired by Angus Worthing, MD, and, of course, with the help of our very capable staff, I have been proud to sign dozens of letters on behalf of the ACR. We are pushing bills in an expanding number of states to address state issues, including biosimilars, specialty tiers, step therapy and prior authorization.
You Are Key to These Efforts
I am proud of our progress this year, and I hope you are, too. As we enter the election season and the end of this congressional session, there is reason for optimism. But the next several months will be critical. We need your involvement and your support for RheumPAC if you are a U.S.-based ACR or ARHP member. Please encourage your colleagues to learn more about RheumPAC and how they can lend their support at the ACR website.*
RheumPAC has proved itself a powerful effector arm of ACR advocacy policy, and we need members’ support to make it stronger. Visit the ACR’s Legislative Action Center at www.rheumatology.org/advocacy to read more about the issues and the many ways you can make a personal difference as you help us with Advancing Rheumatology! Don’t hesitate to call upon the ACR’s staff as you make your own mark in these critical areas affecting your practices and patients.