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Grant Olan

Congress missed the March 1, 2013, deadline for replacing the $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts (sequestration) mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. As a consequence, federal defense and domestic programs, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are facing an across-the-board cut—or “sequester”—of $85 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. This translates to an approximately 9 percent budget cut for the NIH and other “nonexempt nondefense programs” (nonexempt defense programs will see a cut of approximately 13 percent). Congress deemed a few agencies “exempt,” including Medicare (with cuts capped at 2 percent) and the Department of Veterans

Grant Olan

President Barack Obama released his budget request for fiscal year 2014 on April 10, 2013. In a departure from his grand and ambitious budget proposals of the past, the president made some significant concessions to meet congressional Republicans halfway.

Specifically, the president proposed to replace the $1.2 trillion sequester cuts to discretionary spending with $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction achieved through entitlement reform and nearly $1 trillion in new revenue that includes a new minimum tax of 30 percent on households earning more than $1 million after charitable giving, known as the “Buffett Rule.”

The president’s proposal includes a modest

Grant Olan

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, ASN and the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) hosted a reception on Capitol Hill to launch the activities of the Congressional Kidney Caucus in the 113th Congress. Co-chaired by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), the bipartisan Congressional Kidney Caucus was founded by Rep. McDermott and former Representative, now Senator, Mark Kirk (R-IL) in March 2002 to raise awareness in Congress about the prevalence and burden of kidney disease and advance kidney patient health.

This year, the Caucus is focusing on increasing the visibility of kidney disease in Congress and advancing

Grant Olan

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) kicked off National VA Research Week—May 13–17, 2013—with a briefing at the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center. VA Research Week celebrates the contributions of VA researchers to high quality care for veterans and medical progress. This year’s theme was “VA Research Inspires”.

The VA maintains a comprehensive research portfolio aimed at advancing the treatment of kidney failure, as well as preventing and slowing the progression of kidney disease. VA leadership, including VA Chief Research and Development Officer Joel Kupersmith, MD, spoke at the briefing.

Kupersmith provided an overview of research at the Washington VA

Grant Olan

On April 25, 2013, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) met with nearly 60 congressional offices for Kidney Health Advocacy Day. In a first for ASN, the society partnered with the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) to build support for the following three key issues of mutual importance to the three organizations.

Passage of transplant legislation that will ease access to organ donations and provide kidney transplant recipients lifetime coverage of immunosuppressive drugs:

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, or HOPE Act, passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on June 17 after vigorous

Grant Olan

ASN President Bruce A. Molitoris, MD, FASN, President-Elect Sharon M. Moe, MD, FASN, Councilor Raymond C. Harris, MD, FASN, and Research Advocacy Committee members in June visited with National Institutes of Health (NIH) leaders and staff for “Kidney Research Advocacy Day.”

NIH’s 27 institutes and centers are engaged in global health research and research training activities. For the second straight year, ASN met with senior staff at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and Center for Scientific Review. ASN also had a first-ever meeting

Grant Olan

These days, it seems that Congress lurches from one fiscal crisis to the next with another one set for this fall. The clock for passing a budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins on October 1, is quickly running out. If Congress fails to pass a budget or appropriations funding government services beyond that date, non-essential federal offices will be closed and non-essential employees furloughed. While the impact on health care would be minimal—Medicare and other mandatory federal programs would still operate—public health and medical research programs would be in jeopardy.

Congress faces a number of challenges. For one, the

Grant Olan

On Friday, September 14, 2012, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a highly anticipated report on the likely effects of sequestration (the automatic across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion passed as part of the Budget Control Act in 2011 that are slated to take effect beginning January 2013). The report confirmed what everyone already knew—sequestration would bring massive budget cuts that would devastate federal programs.

Sequestration would reduce funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2.5 billion in FY 2013, or 8.2 percent, eliminating up to 2300 NIH research grants. NIH “would have to halt

Grant Olan

Voters resoundingly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama on Election Day in November, but the balance of power in Congress remains essentially the same. Democrats gained two seats in the House of Representatives; however, Republicans will retain control by nearly 40 seats.* In the Senate, Democrats expanded their majority by two seats, but did not earn enough representation to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Because Democrats remain in control of the Senate and Republicans remain in control of the House, both parties will need to compromise to avert a “fiscal cliff” before January 2013, when automatic across-the-board cuts to federal discretionary spending

Grant Olan

After considerable party posturing and uncertainty, Congress passed a last-minute temporary 2-month physician payment patch on December 17, 2011. The patch averted a 27.4 percent cut on January 1 to Medicare reimbursements, triggered by the Sustainable Growth Rate, through February 2012. Lawmakers agreed to meet after their holiday recess to consider a longer-term patch, but concerns remain that they will scour Medicare for possible savings to pay for it. Meanwhile, hope remains that Congress will find a permanent solution for replacing the Sustainable Growth Rate.

Congress also passed an omnibus budget bill in December for fiscal year (FY) 2012. Thirteen