A weekly advocacy letter from Mary Woolley: Advocates talk to Congress

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

Several patient groups, including Autism Speaks and the Lupus Foundation of America, were here in force this week, bringing hundreds of patients from around the nation to Capitol Hill to make their very personal, and powerful, cases for research.  Their timing was perfect, as it coincided with the push for 21st Century Cures cosponsors, and subcommittee passage of the House “Labor-H” appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2016, which covers funding for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ.

This funding bill is definitely a mixed bag. NIH would receive a $1.1 billion increase; $100 million above the President’s budget. CDC would also receive an increase of $140 million, equal to the level proposed by the President.  Given that the subcommittee received a budget allocation $2.9 billion less than in FY15, these budget numbers are very, very good. 

Not at all good is that the bill launches a full-out assault on health services research in general, and on AHRQ in particular.  Specifically: 1) no dollars would be appropriated to AHRQ; 2) the bill clearly intends to rescind (zero-out) the dollars AHRQ has been receiving from the PCOR Trust Fund;  and 3) a prohibition would be placed on the use of appropriated funding for patient-centered outcomes research. 

The full committee is expected to mark up the Labor-H bill next week, and we anticipate that the Senate’s version of the bill will be marked up next week, too.  Read our statement on the House bill here, and please join in advocacy for health services research by clicking here.

Earlier today, the House passed the Protect Medical Innovation Act (HR 160), which would repeal the medical device excise tax. A total of 280 members -- 234 Republicans and 46 Democrats --  voted for the bill, while 140 voted against it.  The battle ahead is uphill.  The President has issued a veto threat, and clearly we need more support from Democrats to end this tax for good.  Nonetheless, the case for repeal transcends party lines and bears on the pace of medical progress writ large.  If enough of us engage in this effort, we can get the job done. If you would like to get more involved, please email Ellie at edehoney@researchamerica.org.

Please mark your calendars for our 2015 annual National Health Research Forum on Thursday, September 10. This informative and interactive event brings together top leaders from government, academia, patient advocacy and industry to confront key issues bearing on the direction and pace of medical progress. As has been true for several years now, our commitment is to bringing you a lively session of "straight talk." There will indeed be a lot to talk about -- I hope you will join us!  For more information and to register, please click here.  


Mary Woolley

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Luck shouldn't play a role in why I'm alive.
Laurie MacCaskill, a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor