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TIBERI ADDRESSES NATIONAL ISSUES DURING JAMES VISIT

U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) proved prophetic at The James’ Semi-Annual Medical Staff Meeting on Nov. 9 when he suggested there was little chance that a Congressional supercommittee would agree on a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Serving as guest speaker and as the focus of a question-and-answer session moderated by Mike Curtin, associate publisher emeritus of The Columbus Dispatch, Tiberi said the chance that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the bipartisan supercommittee) would agree on a deficit-reduction package was slim since the Democratic and Republican supercommittee members have opposing approaches to achieving such savings, although they had traded offers.

The supercommittee dissolved after failing to agree by the Nov. 21 deadline on a 10-year package of spending cuts and/or tax increases to produce the required reduction. This outcome will trigger “sequestration,” through which $1.2 trillion will be cut across-the-board, evenly split between defense and non-defense spending. Tiberi said some members on both sides of the aisle in Congress may prefer this consequence because it offers a chance to cut programs, including defense funding, that otherwise are difficult to reduce. 

He said the supercommittee’s disagreements over a deficit-reduction package centered on the mix of new revenues or taxes to be included and the extent of long-term reforms to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

Tiberi further discussed federal funding for cancer research and recognized the importance of federal funds to support discovery of therapies and cures for this disease in its many forms.

The House Labor/Health and Human Services/Education Appropriations bill, introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana), increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $1 billion over the current allocation. The National Cancer Institute budget would increase by $136 million, bringing its funding level to about $5.2 billion. Tiberi said the House will work to protect these funds during negotiations with the Senate.

Also during the meeting, OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, raised the issue of the next generation of researchers leaving academic institutions due to limited availability of financial support. 

Steven G. Gabbe, MD, CEO of Ohio State’s Medical Center, asked about federal support for graduate medical education (GME). Tiberi explained that multiple groups recommending cuts to reduce the federal deficit have targeted federal GME spending. However, he said Ohio State and other academic medical centers have done a good job educating members of Congress about the need for and use of federal GME dollars.

Addressing the implementation of federal healthcare reform – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) – Tiberi referenced the recent election in which 66 percent of Ohio voters supported Issue 3, a constitutional amendment that affects healthcare insurance practices in Ohio. The amendment prohibits mandatory participation in any healthcare system.

Tiberi recognized that this is largely a symbolic rebuke of the individual mandate to maintain health insurance, as required by the recently enacted federal healthcare law. He said the future of the law will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court and pointed out that the Obama Administration has encouraged a speedy review of challenges to the law. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to the law in March 2012, with a ruling expected in June.