Dear Parkinson's Community,
We have a deal! Yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), leaders of the bipartisan budget conference committee, announced an agreement on a two-year budget plan. While described as a modest step forward, the significance of the bipartisan budget deal, the first to emerge from a divided Congress in over a quarter of a century, should be noted. If passed by both chambers as expected, it will lift the threat of a second government shutdown, and just as importantly, the compromise may be a sign of some old partisan wounds beginning to heal.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 sets levels for overall spending for the next two fiscal years and replaces a large portion of the scheduled sequestration cuts. We are fairly confident that because the deal includes overall increases for non-defense spending, there are opportunities for at least limited increases for our priority areas. But, specific allocations for programs important to the Parkinson's community, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), must still be determined - which means that the hard work is just beginning.
The leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin work almost immediately, and throughout the month of December, to set allocations for various programs and agencies. For the first time in a long while, we see a clear opportunity to emphasize the need for increased NIH and FDA funding, as well as our multiple concerns about Medicare reimbursement and coverage. During this time, our voice needs to be well represented among the many interests that will be reaching out to Congressional leaders. We must make this moment count.
It is also very significant to our community that an amendment will likely be added to the legislation to extend for 90 days the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process. The extension will ensure that people with Parkinson's have continued access to medically necessary services while Congress works to finalize a broader agreement over the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, in which a more permanent solution to the therapy cap issue is beginning to emerge.
We will be reaching out to you again soon with opportunities to engage with targeted members of the Appropriations Committees and your own Members of Congress and urge their support to strengthen the commitment to federal research funding.
Thank you for your dedication and for serving as a constant source of inspiration for our work every day.
Amy Comstock Rick
Date originally posted: December 11, 2013.