MEDICAL RESEARCH: Lawmakers’ Retirements Stir Concern
As the retirement of Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.) and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) looms near, many in the health industry fear that there will be no one left to champion funding for health research and teaching hospitals, Wall Street Journal columnist Albert Hunt reports. As chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH, Porter managed to double NIH funding despite earlier threats by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to slash the agency's budget. By bringing groups of medical experts to Congress, Porter has built a "broad support and understanding" for the need to fund health research. Former Rep. Paul Rogers, chair of Research America, said that support for such funding "would have been very difficult without John Porter ... he has been the main person in this effort."
Teaching Hospital Dilemma
When the nation's 125 academic medical centers and more than 400 teaching hospitals were simultaneously squeezed by managed care and budget cuts resulting from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, Moynihan was instrumental in recovering some funding for the hospitals. Calling teaching hospitals "national treasures ... the very best in the world," Moynihan, who will retire at the end of the year, is working on a plan to further ease the budget cuts. Still, both Moynihan and Porter think that there is "much more to be done." Porter would like a doubling of funds for public health research projects administered by the CDC. Hunt questions who will carry the torch for these issues. Possibilities include Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who share Moynihan's concern about teaching hospitals. Also, Hunt speculates that because both presidential candidates lost siblings to cancer, "medical research should appear more prominently on their radar screen" (5/18).