Less Funding Proposed for Medical Research
President Bush’s recent state-of-the-union speech set the stage for an annual federal spending proposal that threatens to further erode our nation’s long-standing commitment to advance the pace of medical research and drug access.
Despite a theme of “When America leads, Americans Win,” the President’s budget proposal continued a three-year trend of decreasing resources for medical research. Funding for federal medical research will remain well below the rate of medical inflation, which is estimated to be at least 3.5% annually. The current budget proposal recommends the same level of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as last year, $28.331 billion.
Cancer Initiatives Cut
Within that amount, the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) funding would get a cut of $40 million, or 0.8%. Part of that cut would be shifted to supplement a proposed $140 million increase, or 26.5%, to the Office of the NIH Director to fund NIH-wide reform initiatives.
Under the President’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2007, cancer programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are slated to be cut by $20 million, or 2.4%, to a total of $819 million. These programs include the Ferraro hematological malignancies education program and other early detection and registry programs.
Another important issue to the cancer community, funding for nurse training and education, would also remain flat funded at $150 million.
Medicare Cuts May Affect Cancer Community
Also included in the budget were projections that would trim Medicare costs by up to $36 billion. It remains to be seen if Congress will take up these proposals and what form and shape they will take. However, the newly implemented Medicare Part D prescription is already, by most educated estimates, over-promising benefits that have already been committed to the American people. Any further cuts will make an untenable situation even more precarious.
Many of the past projected savings in Medicare have been and are being borne by the cancer community. Time will tell if the new proposed cuts will translate into further reductions in the provision of oncology services.
This news comes on top of the recently released figures breaking down the final appropriations funding figures for fiscal year 2006.
President Signs Bill which will Reduce Funding for NIH, NCI
For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress passed and the President signed into law a bill that reduced funding of NIH by more than $33 million, or 0.12%. Looking more closely at the numbers, NCI took one of the hardest hits of all the institutes. NCI was reduced by $31.9 million, or 0.66%. CDC cancer programs were reduced by $1.3 million and nursing education and training were reduced by almost $1 million.
These are cuts, and not increases well below the rate of medical inflation. Both translate into reductions in research activity, but the cuts reduce the pace of research more quickly and more painfully than do insufficient increases.
Keep Talking about the Potential Crisis
The President’s renewed call for extending and making permanent the tax cuts will, if realized, continue to put pressure on Congress to find real cuts all across the board of domestic spending.
Advocates should talk about this situation with their friends, families, neighbors and communities throughout the year. Current trends indicate that medical research and drug access issues will be swept aside from the national political agenda unless there is a grassroots, person-to-person understanding of the potential crisis the cancer and other disease communities will face in the years to come.