The first round of automatic budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 are set to go into effect in six months, bringing with them reductions in billions of dollars to critical medical research and development, access to new medical treatments, and other health and well-being programs in the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With life-saving research, thousands of jobs, and cures for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's at risk from these draconian cuts, Congress needs a detailed account from HHS about the impacts of sequestration, said Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Federal agencies dedicated to research, health, and community development face a 7.8 percent cut in their budgets on January 1, 2013 as a result of the automatic cuts mandated by the law, but the agency will have some flexibility as to how the cuts are applied.
"The health and well-being of every American could be impacted by these automatic cuts," wrote Rep. Markey in the letter HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Every family is one doctor's visit away from needing the promise of NIH research. Every senior deserves to have access to medical care from the doctor of their choice. Every parent wants to know that the food they serve their children at the dinner table is safe. I believe Congress and the American public would benefit from a detailed understanding of the harm these mandatory cuts pose to vital health programs upon which millions of Americans around the nation rely."
In the letter, Rep. Markey points to the critical biomedical research that could come to a halt. According to a recent report released by Research!America, the automatic cuts translate into a $3.6 billion loss for medical research in 2013 alone. The National Institutes of Health stands to lose $2.4 billion, an amount equal to half of the entire budget of the National Cancer Institute.
The automatic cuts also threaten to slow drug discovery and drug approval times. The Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of our food supply, drugs, and medical devices faces the prospect of a $200 million budget cut.
Seniors would be gravely impacted by sequestration. Their doctors face a cut in Medicare payments of $11 billion in 2013 alone, making it increasingly harder for doctors to treat Medicare patients, let alone to see new ones.
In September 2011, Rep. Markey released "The Debt Deal: Implications for Massachusetts", a comprehensive report that outlines how the Budget Control Act of 2011 could have drastic impacts on Massachusetts' healthcare, education system and economy at large. The report was updated in January 2012 after the Congressional "Supercommittee" was unable to reach a bipartisan deal to avoid the automatic budget cuts mandated in the legislation.