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Friday, March 17, 2017

President Trump released his proposed budget, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” on Wednesday, March 15. It includes cuts to nearly all non-defense discretionary funding, which includes all programs that are not “mandatory.” Mandatory programs include Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The Cancer Support Community (CSC) and many patient and professional advocacy organizations are concerned about the potential impact of these cuts.

President Trump’s cuts include:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would see a $15.1 billion reduction (18% funding cut). HHS seeks to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. HHS administers a host of programs that impact health, social services, and overall wellbeing for millions of Americans
  • HHS includes dozens of agencies and offices including:
    • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would see a $5.8 billion reduction (18% funding cut). The NIH is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. The President’s budget calls for the twenty-seven centers and institutes that make up the NIH to undergo a “major reorganization”
    • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a part of the NIH. The NCI coordinates the National Cancer Program which conducts and supports research, training, and health information dissemination. Due to the work of the NCI, significant progress has been made in the fight against cancer with the overall rate of death from the disease decreasing for over a decade.
    • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers health care programs and insurance for older Americans, people with lower incomes, pregnant women, children, people with disabilities, and others
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control and supervision of food, medications, medical devices, and other products
    • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) leads public efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

Further, the President would completely eliminate the Fogerty International Center which supports and facilitates global health research through partnerships abroad. The budget would also eradicate $403 million in health professional workforce training, citing a lack of evidence that these programs improve the nation’s workforce. The Agency for Health Care Research (AHRQ) and Quality, which produces evidence to make health care safer and higher quality, would be consolidated under the NIH, although it is unclear exactly what this means. The President does call for “additional funds for program integrity and implementing the 21st Century Cures Act.”

This information is important to people impacted by cancer because for over a decade, NIH funding levels did not keep pace with the rate of biomedical inflation, causing a shortage of funding to researchers.

It is of interest to note that approximately 95% of the NIH budget goes directly to research awards, programs, centers, training programs, and research and development contracts. Each year, the NIH funds over 57,000 research and training grants, supporting 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities and organizations in every state. The discoveries that emerge as a result of these grants have contributed to significant advances in our understanding and treatment of diseases including cancer. For example, NIH funding led to the sequencing of the human genome. From 1969 to 2013, the overall cancer death rate has dropped by about 1.5% annually. The national life expectancy of the average American has increased from 70.8 to 78.8 in that time.

The NIH also supports over 350,000 jobs nationwide. In 2015 alone, NIH funding produced over $60 billion in new economic activity and every $1 invested in NIH funding generates about $2.21 in local economic growth.

Without adequate levels of predictable, sustainable funding to the NIH, scientists cannot be assured that they will be able to engage in lifesaving biomedical research. This is problematic because the breakthrough progress that has been made to prevent, treat, and cure diseases could stall. The United States could fall behind as the leader in biomedical research and if the best and brightest scientists cannot access the funding necessary to do their jobs here, they may leave the country for other opportunities.

The President’s financial plan does not immediately impact any programs as Congress still has to negotiate and pass the final budget. NIH funding has historically received bipartisan support, although advocates have worked diligently to highlight the vital work of the agency. The Cancer Support Community strongly supports adequate and sustainable funding in biomedical research and urges Congress to resist this harmful budget cut to the NIH and HHS.

As Members of Congress begin the budgeting process, CSC will keep you up to date and encourage you to contact your Representative and Senator to encourage them to provide adequate funding for biomedical research. Please sign up to be a CSC advocate today to make sure that you receive timely information on policy issues that could impact individuals and families dealing with cancer.

Category: Advocacy