A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: A welcome change of course

Mary Woolley

Over the course of his last few weeks before retiring, Speaker Boehner worked with fellow House and Senate leaders and the President to fashion a budget deal that increases the nation’s debt limit and provides an additional $80 billion above sequestration-level spending caps. Both non-defense and defense programs will receive $25 billion more in fiscal year 2016 (FY16) and $15 billion more in FY 2017. The House has passed this budget plan, and the Senate is expected to follow suit by Tuesday. See our statement
 
Passing this deal is step one. Step two is allocating top-line budget numbers across the 12 appropriations subcommittees (these allocations are known as “302(b)s”). This will likely take place early next week, triggering step three, in which the subcommittees determine how much each federal agency and program will receive. Research!America’s immediate priority is to push for 302(b) allocations that permit the level of funding that NIH, CDC, AHRQ, FDA and NSF need to fulfill their respective missions. Then we move on to making our case to the relevant subcommittees. This is a welcome return - albeit in compressed form - to standard operating procedure, aka ‘regular order.’ Now is an important time to weigh in. If you want more info, give me or Ellie a call at (703) 739-2577.
 
One of the revenue offsets in the budget deal involves selling off part of the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), even though that same offset has been slated to help pay for mandatory NIH and FDA funding in the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6). It’s important not to see the budget deal as a setback though. For one thing, the Senate bill reportedly does include mandatory dollars. Rumor has it that the funding levels are lower than in HR 6, but this is still a huge victory and the foundation for a solid funding boost in the final House/Senate bill. 
 
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the NIAMS Coalition, a dynamic group of advocates fighting for increased funding at NIH and NIAMS.  Also speaking was a friend of Research!America, Alex Silver, founder of the EB Research Partnership. He shared compelling statistics, which I expand on here: each year the U.S. invests $97 per person in research conducted at and through NIH. Even tripling that number to include industry-, patient group- and philanthropy-funded research, it is dwarfed by the nearly $10,000 we spend per person annually on healthcare. Research is a tried and true way of disrupting the healthcare cost spiral, so why do we short-change it? Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS-03) voiced similar sentiments on the House floor yesterday.
 
Last night was the third GOP debate. When questioned about the growing burden of public programs like Medicare, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee responded that instead of treating diseases, we must cure them, “We don't have a healthcare crisis in America, we have a health crisis.” Governor Huckabee could not be more correct when he says the way to control healthcare costs is to overcome the diseases that generate them. It is terrific to know where he stands, but it has been all but radio silence from most of the other presidential candidates. Please join us in asking those who would represent Americans in Washington to tell us how they will speed medical progress. We deserve to know. Visit www.CampaignforCures.org for more information.  

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient