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May 5, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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ACA repeal; Omnibus passes in the Senate as expected and heads to POTUS; On to FY 2018 appropriations 

ACA Repeal Passes in House: The House passed an Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill today. In addition to the significant implications for health care access, the bill would repeal the medical device tax and, tragically, eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund. As written, this bill likely cannot pass the Senate.

Omnibus: The Senate on Thursday passed the $1 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government through the end of September, sending the measure to the White House before the current continuing resolution expires this week. The omnibus (H.R. 244), provides a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) including the $352 million provided through the 21st Century Cures Act for targeted initiatives. As you know, the House approved the package, 309-118, on May 3rd, making the president’s desk as the final stop before the bill becomes law. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on May 2nd indicating the administration’s support for the package.

FY 2018 Appropriations: The House Budget Committee tentatively plans to mark up a budget resolution after the Memorial Day break, while the Senate Budget Committee may not get to work on one until later in June. That timeline would leave barely four months to complete all 12 regular appropriations bills before the new fiscal year begins. Also expected later this month is the President's full budget.

While numerous congressional leaders have expressed concern over the proposed NIH cuts in the administration’s Budget Blueprint, it will be important for the community to continue emphasizing the need for steady, robust budget growth for NIH.

As we enter a potentially challenging FY 2018 advocacy climate, it will be important for the community to remain unified in support of sustainable, predictable growth for the agency. Additionally, ASPET is joining efforts coordinated by NDD United and the Coalition for Health Funding to ensure the highest possible investments in non-defense discretionary spending and the Labor-HHS-Education 302(b) allocation, which will facilitate greater investment in NIH and other health priorities.

NIH Announces Preliminary Plans for New Approach to Grant Funding: On May 2, NIH Principal Deputy Director, Larry Tabak, DDS, PhD, led a stakeholder conference call to introduce a grants policy change that will be implemented over the next few months called the Grant Support Index (GSI). The purpose of this change is to allow NIH to address concerns regarding the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise. While Dr. Tabak noted several key grants policy changes put in place in the wake of the 2012 report of the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director, these changes have had only moderate success in addressing the balance of funding across career stages. 

Citing analyses that show that 10 percent of investigators receive 40 percent of NIH funds as well as the diminishing returns on productivity from investigators with three or more R01 grants, Dr. Tabak introduced the GSI as a mechanism for balancing NIH funding across the research community.  The need for such a mechanism has been highlighted in several publications, including a 1985 paper by Bruce Alberts and more recently, FASEB’s 2015 report, Sustaining Discovery in the Biomedical and Biological Sciences. While NIH is still developing the specific parameters of the GSI and plans to actively engage the stakeholder community in this process, Dr. Tabak outlined several key components, listed below:

  • GSI will assign a point value based on grant complexity or size
  • Investigators will not be defunded if they hit the GSI cap; NIH anticipates rolling out the policy so that a new grant submission would trigger a process in which the applicant would have to provide a plan for how to balance their NIH funding portfolio
  • GSI would automatically be calculated by ERA, minimizing administrative burdens
  • NIH anticipates that the “cap” score will be 21, but they are still working on the scale and specific point values for grant types/roles
  • The cap is anticipated to affect only 6 percent of NIH funded investigators but will free up approximately $500M - $650M (1,500-1,600 new awards)
  • Details of the implementation plan to be informed by stakeholders, including all IC Councils (all will discuss this during May meetings) and requests for input from community

ASPET will provide updates regarding implementation of this new policy as more information becomes available.

Last updated: May 8, 2017 

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