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Fiscal Standoff Could Cause Financial Pain for Health Care
Date:3/2/2013

llins, director of the NIH.

In a conference call with reporters, Collins said the cuts could affect areas of research that include cancer, Alzheimer's disease, a universal influenza vaccine that would cover all flu strains, and the brain activity map mentioned by Obama in his State of the Union speech this month.

Collins anticipates some negative consequences to work being done at the NIH. He said it would be difficult to apply 5.1 percent cuts -- or $1.56 billion -- to the seven months left in this fiscal year. "Science is best supported in the circumstances in which you have a stable trajectory where you can plan month to month," he said. "It's a time of extraordinary scientific progress and extraordinary debt."

Antos, of the American Enterprise Institute, said consumers shouldn't worry that scientific research will stop immediately due to relatively small trims to a federally supported research agency such as the NIH: "There is plenty that is not financed by the federal government alone. Remember that the NIH sponsors somewhat theoretical [long-term] research. They're still going to run with the projects they've got going."

Still, Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group that supports medical and scientific research, thinks research needs to be given a much higher public priority. "Those that feel that [the budget cuts] are just a paper cut are misinformed. It's a serious self-inflicted wound," she said. "If we don't continue to robustly fund the research and evidence base that will help us get a handle on escalating health-care costs, we could bankrupt the nation."

Woolley said Congress has to start focusing on big-ticket items such as Medicare and Medicaid that have a huge impact on health care. "The sequester is a side show compared to what really needs to happen: tax reform and entitlement reform. People know both of these need work, and they're hard, but that's the job [our repr
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