Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Funding Victories and Two-Month Extension of Important Medicare Policies

As the calendar year draws to a close, the Society is pleased that Congress was able to pass a short-term package that ensures that physicians treating Medicare patients will not face a steep cut in reimbursement rates, as well as extends an exceptions process for Medicare beneficiaries to ensure that they can continue receiving
outpatient physical, speech and occupational therapy services. A longer term solution is needed though--past this package's February 29, 2012 deadline--to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to health and therapy services well into the year. Congressional leadership has already appointed some conferees who are charged with developing this longer-term solution. Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to weigh in about these important Medicare policies!

Shortly before Congress addressed Medicare reimbursement and therapy caps, it also completed work on Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations. Each year, MS activists participate in the federal appropriations process—visiting and contacting their members of Congress repeatedly throughout the year to help ensure that MS research and programs important to people affected by MS continue to be funded at robust levels. Congress and the President are under tremendous pressure to cut spending in the face of historic budget deficits and while programs are being trimmed, the Society is pleased to report that the ardent work of MS activists has paid off and MS research and programs will be funded at the following levels in FY 2012:
  • MS Research in the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP): MS research in the CDMRP will receive $3.8 million. This is a funding stream that exists solely because MS activists urged Congress to create it and with the FY 2012 funding, MS research has received a total of over $20 million through the CDMRP over five years.
  • Lifespan Respite: Lifespan Respite Care programs help support, expand and streamline the delivery of planned and emergency respite services supporting our nation’s 65 million family caregivers—including those who care for people living with MS. Lifespan Respite will receive $2.495 million in FY 2012, offering states more funding to sustain or enhance their statewide respite systems.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The NIH is the single largest source of biomedical research funding in the world and sponsors a majority of the MS-related research carried out in the United States. In FY 2012, NIH funding is increased by $300 million over FY 2011 levels—with total funding of $30.7 billion. The Society is pleased that as part of NIH funding, $10 million is provided to implement the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) that will help speed the translation and application of discoveries and get effective therapies to the people that need them quicker.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): FY 2012 funding for the FDA was finalized in mid-November as part of a separate package and the FDA will fortunately receive a $50 million increase over last year’s level—for a total of $2.5 billion. Funding for the FDA will help ensure that drugs and medical devices are safe and effective.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA): While the Society worked with many other advocates to increase funding for the SSA in FY 2012, the SSA will receive a $400 million cut in FY 2012--being funded at $10.984 billion. Significant cuts the SSA’s administrative budget can result in longer turnaround times for approval of disability benefits so the Society will monitor this potential impact.

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