(This blog post was written by the COPD Foundation’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Jamie Sullivan, MPH)
The COPD Foundation is joining with health organizations nationwide in urging action to avoid drastic cuts to medical research, Medicare and health regulatory agencies under the automatic “sequestration” cuts as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
What is Sequestration?
The Budget Control Act of 2011 stated that should Congress fail to produce a deficit reduction bill, automatic ‘sequestration cuts’ to both the Department of Defense (DOD) and Health and Human Services (HHS)would be triggered in the amount of $1.2 trillion. Congress was not able
to pass a deficit reduction bill in the allotted timeframe and as a result these sequestration cuts are scheduled to take effect beginning in 2013. The cuts are to ‘discretionary’ spending which means programs like social security and Medicaid are not impacted, but many vital health programs and services are at risk. The non-defense discretionary spending that is subject to cuts is the second smallest share of the federal budget and accounts for some of the most critical services.
What is at risk?
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a report in September identifying $6.57 billion in Department of Health and Human Services discretionary spending to be sequestered beginning in Jan 2013.
The National Institutes for Health (NIH) would face some of the largest sequestration cuts, including cuts to grants for medical research. The OMB report suggests that over $2.5 billion would be cut from NIH meaning some critical research would have to be halted immediately and many other studies would need to be scaled back to meet the automatic cuts.
Medicare, including Medicare Part D plans that many members of the community rely on for access to life sustaining therapies, would be subject to 2% cuts totaling approximately $123 billion. These cuts would be made to the health plans that provide the coverage to beneficiaries – but many believe that an across the board cut has the potential to result in less access and a lower quality of care for patients.
Other critical agencies would be hurt from sequestration cuts as well. The FDA would have to slash 1200 full time jobs and many more examples can be found at the Coalition for Health Funding’s website .
Why should the COPD Community care?
COPD is the nation’s third leading cause of death, and is the only disease state in the top five with a rise in prevalence and mortality. Yet, despite these statistics, COPD research receives substantially less funding than other diseases. Studies have shown a direct correlation between increased research funding and decreased mortality for disease states as exemplified by HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Cuts to NIH medical research and medical research grants could stagnate COPD research and result in increased COPD mortality rates.
NIH medical research for COPD helps develop early diagnosis strategies, new treatment regimens, and improved disease management programs. In 2010 COPD cost the US government approximately $49.9 billion in direct and indirect costs and this figure will only increase if the federal government does not invest in COPD research. By increasing COPD research funding new discoveries have the potential to improve treatment plans, keep you healthier and out of the hospital and one day create a breakthrough that leads to the cure for this devastating disease.
In addition to research, the COPD Community relies on all parts of Medicare to stay healthy and a critical piece of this puzzle is to ensure that you have access to appropriate therapies pre- and post- hospitalization to both avoid and prevent exacerbations. Potential cuts to providers and health plans in the Medicare system could result in disruption and/or access to continuity of care.
What are we doing about it?
The COPD Foundation is joining other health organizations in expressing our concerns about the negative impacts cuts to health spending will have for the COPD Community. Coalitions of health organizations, including the COPD Foundation, have sent letters to Congress, are holding rallies and hearings on Capitol Hill and raising our voices across the country to ensure that our elected officials understand that they must find a solution before these sequestration cuts take effect. We will keep you informed and let you know where you have an opportunity to make your voice heard too.
The COPD Foundation would like to acknowledge the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, NORD and the Coalition for Health Funding for providing much of the information contained within today’s blog post.