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July/August 2011
Policy and Advocacy
IDSA, HIVMA Urge Balanced Approach to Reducing Deficit that Protects Health

President Obama in early August signed a bill into law that raises the nation’s debt limit ceiling, reduces the deficit by over $900 billion over 10 years through caps on spending, and creates a special congressional committee tasked with identifying an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by the end of the year. It is not yet clear how the spending caps will impact funding for critical ID programs at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies.

IDSA will continue to work with Congress during the upcoming appropriations process and deficit reduction debates to underscore the value of investments in public health and research, and the need for a balanced approach to reducing the deficit. This will include new ways for IDSA members to get involved and advocate for needed funding.

Earlier in the deficit debate, IDSA and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) urged President Obama in a letter (PDF) to apply three principles in developing strategies to reduce the deficit while ensuring public health and the health care system are protected:

  • Support an equitable and balanced approach that incorporates reductions in federal spending and revenue generation and does not disproportionately rely on spending cuts to programs that are not related to defense and homeland security.

  • Do not impose rigid spending caps that force across-the-board cuts that eliminate the opportunity to consider priorities.

  • Consider programs protecting public health, biomedical research, and vulnerable populations a “last resort” when evaluating spending cuts.

In addition, HIVMA joined 11 HIV/AIDS advocacy groups in urging President Obama and congressional leaders in a July statement (PDF) to consider the impact on vulnerable populations, including people living with HIV/AIDS, from cuts in funding. HIVMA and Ryan White Medical Providers Coalition also called on lawmakers to use a balanced approach in implementing the budget legislation and to consider the impact of cuts on patients (see the statement online).

IDSA opposed a separate debt reduction proposal that would have cut payments for Part B drugs, including intravenous antibiotics, administered to Medicare beneficiaries in the outpatient setting. Even a small reduction in payments for these cost-effective treatments could have a devastating impact on patients with serious infections, IDSA said in a July letter (PDF).

In other policy and advocacy news:

  • IDSA responded to a draft federal action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance. In its June comments (PDF), the Society highlighted the need for greater leadership, coordination, input from non-government experts, accountable measures, and resources to address antimicrobial-resistant infections. The draft plan (PDF) was published by the federal Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance. 

  • IDSA urged federal officials to exempt research from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and create a new privacy protection framework for research. Until that can be done, IDSA called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take steps to limit the negative impact of HIPAA on research by exempting research activities from the accounting of disclosures requirement; redefining protected health information in the context of research; and clearly delineating quality improvement efforts from research activities. IDSA’s comments (PDF) were in response to an HHS proposal (see June 2011 IDSA News). In a related development, HHS in late July also proposed sweeping changes to regulations, known collectively as the Common Rule, that govern all federally funded research on human subjects (see related article).

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