Today, March 1, marks the beginning of sequestration, the unprecedented automatic budget cuts that immediately take effect across the federal government-after months of futile negotiations by the President and Congress.
Mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 as an extreme measure to stem deficit spending in the absence of Congressional action, the budget cuts were originally slated to hit on January 1, 2013. The American Taxpayer Relief Act, passed in the waning hours of 2012, forestalled the so-called "fiscal cliff" giving lawmakers an additional two months to resolve differences in addressing the country's national debt.
With the White House and Congress unable to reach a bipartisan agreement, federal agencies that fund major cancer-related activities now must implement the sequestration-mandated, across-the-board budget reductions. Posing a triple threat to cancer patients, the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration will be reduced by more than five percent each. The two percent reductions to Medicare physician reimbursements will take effect on April 1, 2013.
Closely monitoring the impact of the sequestration on the oncology community, ASCO will immediately urge Congress to enact measures that will retroactively reinstate critical funding to ensure patients have continued access to high quality cancer care. Stay tuned to ASCO in Action for the latest developments.