Friday, January 4, 2008

2008 Funding Update for Medical Research, Disability Assistance

Little New Funding for Critical Programs
New federal funding allocations for 2008 will impact many programs that people with MS rely on for research and disability assistance. The president signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2008 (H.R. 2764), a large omnibus appropriations package that funds several different federal government agencies and programs, in late December.
  • Unfortunately, medical research funding continues to be ignored as H.R. 2764 included only a small increase of 0.46% for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This amount will not even allow the NIH to keep up with inflation. Currently, the NIH funds the most MS research in the world but at a decreasing rate.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received only a 2.8% increase.

  • As the Social Security Administration (SSA) continues to struggle with its disability determination backlog, MS activists advocated for increases in funding to support the agency. SSA was allocated $9.7 billion to carry out its administrative activities, representing a $451 million increase from FY 2007. This modest increase is intended to help address the severe backlog issue.

  • No funding was provided for the Lifespan Respite Care Act.
On a positive note, funding for a new comprehensive MS center at West Virginia University was approved and allocated nearly $3.5 million. It will be the first comprehensive care center in West Virginia for people living with MS and families dealing with the disease.

In November, the president vetoed a more promising, stand-alone Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) that would have given a 3.1% increase to NIH, a 6.6% increase to CDC, and $2 million for respite care. You worked hard on that bill and essentially helped push it through Congress in a strong bi-partisan showing. However, the votes were not there to overcome the president's veto.

Successful Changes to Medicare Coverage
Medicare received some much-needed attention and maintenance, including changes that MS activists pursued for the past few years. Congress successfully passed a broad-reaching Medicare package—the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (S. 2499)—also in late December. It includes:

  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities
    A new Medicare rule change will help preserve access to rehabilitation services. Previously, 75% of patients using inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRF) would need to meet certain conditions for the facility to maintain its status as an IRF and its level of Medicare reimbursement. If the 75% was not met, it could limit access to IRFs for Medicare patients and potentially close those facilities all together. The Medicare legislation permanently freezes the percentage at 60%, a more achievable level. This is a great win for people living with MS.

  • Medicare Therapy Caps
    Medicare beneficiaries with MS will have continued access to physical and occupational therapy services through June 2008, due to an extension of the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process. It was set to expire on December 31, 2007. The cap for 2008 is $1,810, which a person with MS can quickly reach early in the calendar year. We will continue to advocate for a full repeal of Medicare therapy caps and fight to extend the exceptions process.

The overall Medicare package also approves a 0.5% increase in physician payments through June 2008, extends the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) until March 2009, and makes a number of other Medicare "fixes."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't have MS, but another disability. I am very interested in having the wage cap raised for people with disabilities. Unless people on disability don't need money, the amount you are allowed to earn and disability income are inadequate.

What's your opinion?