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Rheumatology Practice Management June 2017 Vol 5 No 3 - Health Policy
Sophie Granger

The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has released a statement solidifying its stance against the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to federal program and institution budgets. These programs and institutions, which provide critical resources in the battle against rheumatic diseases, include the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the FDA.

“The Administration’s proposed 2018 budget would slash vital funding for institutions and agencies that, together with rheumatology providers, are on the frontlines of rheumatic disease prevention and care. At a time when one in four U.S. adults now live with painful and debilitating rheumatic diseases, it is imperative that the federal government provide stable, predictable funding for the medical research and regulatory activities that lead to more affordable and effective treatments for Americans living with these diseases,” said ACR President Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, in the press release.

Under President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, funding for CHIP, the NIH, and the FDA would be cut by $4.8 billion, $6 billion, and $854 million, respectively.

“NIH funding cuts would threaten jobs and our nation’s status as a leader in medical innovation while slowing down life-saving research that leads to better prevention strategies and new treatments for arthritis, rheumatic diseases and their comorbidities. We applaud Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle who supported the $2 billion NIH funding increase for FY [fiscal year] 2017. We urge Congress to again come together in bipartisan support for medical research advances that improve the lives of all Americans, by including a funding increase for NIH in the 2018 budget,” said Dr Lakhanpal.

In the press statement, the ACR—which supports increasing funding for the FDA biosimilar drug review and approval process, a key component in improving competition and lowering biologic therapy costs—also shared its views on the proposed reduction in taxpayer funding for FDA regulatory activities.

“While we recognize the proposal to replace nearly a billion dollars in cuts to the taxpayer funded FDA budget by increasing industry user fees, we are concerned that this funding may not materialize given that this year’s user fee agreements have already been negotiated. Overall, we fear that the proposed reduction in taxpayer funding for FDA activities could slow the regulation and advancement of new biosimilars and hamper efforts to make these therapies more affordable for our patients,” stated Dr Lakhanpal.

According to the press release, leaders in rheumatology were also against proposed Medicaid and CHIP cuts, seeing as both programs are crucial for vulnerable patients.

“Rheumatic diseases do not discriminate based on age. Approximately 300,000 U.S. children live with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and the CHIP program helps ensure children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid can get free or low-cost care. Without this support system, many children living with arthritis would go without life-saving care,” explained Dr Lakhanpal.

ACR Support for Other Proposed Changes

In the same press release, the ACR expressed support for the Trump administration’s proposals to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) budgets and increase funding for Graduate Medical Education programs.

“The ACR applauds the budget recommendation to repeal IPAB once and for all. We were further encouraged to see the Administration’s budget proposal provides resources and signals a commitment reform in the Medicare appeals process, which is long overdue,” Dr Lakhanpal said.

The ACR also enthusiastically supports the designation of additional funding for Graduate Medical Education programs, in addition to other comprehensive measures that will increase the supply of rheumatologists, because these changes contribute to their goal of improving and expanding access to care. However, the organization also offered up some strong criticism of the proposed abolition of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which could lead to a reduction in the number of physicians available where they are needed most.

“The ACR will continue to provide feedback to the Administration and Congressional leaders as they work to craft a budget that meets the healthcare needs of all Americans, including the 54 million individuals who live with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases,” Dr Lakhanpal concluded.

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Last modified: July 5, 2017
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