In lives, health, medical progress, and lost ground — reports tally cost of Budget Control Act

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When legislators went home last week, they left a Continuing Resolution to keep the country running and with it, they left standing the numbers the U.S. Office of Management and Budget cited to estimate the impact of the Budget Control Act’s January 2, 2013 automatic sweeping funding cuts on  government programs, including those responsible for health, science, and investments in global development. According to that, and other reports that were updated in the wake of the resolution, the consequences of Congressional members’ failure to compromise will be draconian.

Along with crippling cuts to agencies that safeguard domestic health, safety and quality of life, the OMB report mentions in its introduction a cut with both future and worldwide implications: “The National Institutes of Health would have to halt or curtail scientific research, including needed research into cancer and childhood diseases.” With “sequestration” — the euphemistic-sounding name for budget-wide indiscriminate funding cuts —   the medical research agency will lose $2.52 billion in fiscal year 2013. In addition, global health programs, which receive less than 1 percent of the total budget, will have $670 million less to address infectious diseases and address the causes of preventable illness and death, according to the OMB calculations.

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Using an earlier prediction of a 7.8 “sequester” — or 7.8 percent subtraction of funding across the budget — the nonprofit Research America tabulated the effect of those cuts to science last May in its report Sequestration: Health Research at the Breaking Point. With the NIH, which the report says, spent $2.7 billion last year in external grants for scientific research, losing what was then projected to be $2.39 billion in funding — as part of a total cut to domestic health and research spending of $3.6 billion — the report concluded “Congress, it’s time to reconsider.” Congress did not, and this week the group updated its report to show the impact of what are now set to be 8.2 percent cuts across the board.

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In the meantime, amFAR, which put out briefs in October 2011, and last July on the human impact in the next year of the debt deal — in preventable illnesses not prevented, untreated illnesses, in deaths, in orphaned children — also updated its report. In July the  organization pointed out that cutting global health programs would have a negligible effect on the deficit, but would take a terrible toll with funding cuts for life-saving AIDS treatment and treatment to prevent infant infection leading to 62,000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, 122,5000 additional orphans, 111,000 HIV-positive pregnant women going without the treatment to help prevent them from passing the virus to their children. That report concluded that across the board cuts in global health spending would result in “substantial human suffering and squandering of opportunities to build on successes in U.S. global health programming.” AmfAR’s update estimates that the loss of funding that would provide HIV/AIDS treatment for 276,500 people could lead to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 124,000 more children becoming orphans. With 112,500 fewer HIV-positive pregnant women receiving preventive support, more than 21,000 additional infants could be infected with HIV in the next year.

Finally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took this look at How the Across-Board-Cuts in the Budget Control Act Will Work for years to come, and promises to update with the estimates from the OMB report. For now — it looks at impacts on funding through 2021.

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