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President Addresses Issues of Academic Medicine in State of the Union

February 15, 2013—In his State of the Union address Feb. 12, President Obama emphasized the negative impact of the across-the-board cuts in sequestration, saying, “They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.”  He again called for “a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.” 

Acknowledging that “the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population,” the president continued, “And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms — otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.”

On Medicare, the president said, “I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.”  He added, “We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.”

Turning to research, the president said, “Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.  Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy….  Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.  They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs…. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.  Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  We need to make those investments.” 

The president emphasized “skyrocketing costs” and “unsustainable debt” as he spoke about improving higher education. He said, “[T]axpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education.  Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.” The president concluded by asking Congress to amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to include “affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.” In a domestic policy blueprint that accompanied the speech, the president called for major changes to the nation’s system of accreditation to reflect this emphasis on affordability and value.


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

Matthew Shick, JD
Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
Telephone: 202-862-6116


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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