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HHS Responds on Sequester Impact

July 13, 2012—In a June 29 response to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25) “would have profound consequences on the Department’s ability to protect Americans’ health and safety and provide critical services to vulnerable populations.”

The letter, from Ellen Murray, HHS Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources, responds to a June 7 request from Rep. Markey that HHS provide Congress a “detailed account” of how the department plans to apply the automatic cut, known as sequestration, required by the BCA and its expected impact on medical research and other health initiatives [see Washington Highlights, June 8].

The HHS letter notes that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that sequestration would reduce non-defense discretionary programs by 7.8 percent on Jan. 2, 2013, and that this cut “would be applied to most HHS accounts.” 

With regard to medical research, HHS cautions the cut “would limit the Department’s ability to accelerate scientific knowledge and innovation” and estimates that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “could potentially eliminate 2,300 new and competing research project grants, with nearly 300 fewer grants issued by the National Cancer Institute.”

HHS also estimates that up to 100,000 children would lose Head Start services, 12,150 fewer patients would receive benefits from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and approximately 169,000 fewer individuals would be admitted to substance abuse programs.

In a July 11 statement, Rep. Markey warns, “These automatic budget cuts will negatively impact every person in America. What is at stake is nothing less than a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s or other diseases that will save our nation trillions in the coming decades. We shouldn’t mortgage our future by cutting crucial research and development programs that are creating and supporting jobs and businesses today. We need to protect the vital programs on which young children and families rely.”


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806