House Passes Temporary “Doc-Fix”
The House passed a one-year delay to the “sustainable growth rate” (SGR)—the rate at which Medicare reimburses physicians, averting a 24 percent cut to doctors. It presents mixed news for the university. In good news, it avoids cuts to graduate medical education (GME), a Medicare funding stream important to teaching hospitals. It also provides additional delays to the disproportionate share (DSH) payments so critical to UI Health as a safety-net provider. On the other hand, until Congress finds a long-term solution, SGR will be the specter that will be back in a year to haunt the GME and DSH funding streams so important to our hospital.
The Senate must now take up the bill. Its Finance Committee chairman wants a long-term fix, but without a way to pay for it, it’s more likely that the Senate will pass the temporary fix.
Durbin Praises UIC Research Breakthroughs in Policy Speech at UIC
This past Monday, Illinois’ senior senator, Sen. Richard Durbin, delivered a significant policy speech at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine to unveil new legislation entitled The American Cures Act, which would augment federal appropriations for biomedical research. The event was attended by over 100 UIC and UI leaders, researchers, staff, and students. The Senator was introduced by UIC College of Medicine Dean Dimitri Azar.
During his speech, Sen. Durbin spoke to several examples of how federal investments in research have and continue to trigger amazing discoveries at the University of Illinois. Specifically, he referenced the great work of UIC Surgery, Bioengineering, and Endocrinology Professor Dr. José Oberholzer, who serves as Director of the Islet and Pancreas Transplant Program and the coordinator of the Chicago Diabetes Project. Accompanying Dr. Oberholzer was one of his patients who has been functionally cured from diabetes as a result of an islet transplant.
UIC Office of Public & Government Affairs' Senior Director Marty Gutierrez coordinated the event.
OGR Appropriations Advocacy in Full Swing
Following UI's FY15 programmatic request submissions, OGR has been meeting with Illinois delegation offices to iterate the importance of the federal funding lines that we care about. We have already received strong support from our delegation, and the process is just recently underway. OGR will continue to urge the delegation to advocate on behalf of these programs by making direct requests or by signing onto letters to appropriators that align with our interests.
Patent Bill to Move Next Week in Key Senate Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering the “patent troll” legislation next week. While the university supports curtailing abusive practices in the patent system, it is concerned that some proposals could diminish the value of patents. The House passed a very troubling bill in December. President Obama urged action in his State of the Union. OGR has been collaborating with AAU, APLU and other research universities in Illinois to share our concerns with the bill.
We support the Senate bill, which is much better from university’s perspective. However, there could be efforts to introduce some of the same harmful provisions in the House bill. Urbana OTM Director Lesley Millar briefed Sen. Durbin’s Judiciary Committee counsel on the impact those additions might have on university and consortium intellectual property last week. OGR is closely monitoring the legislation, and we will know more next week.
ILLINOIS IN DC
Twenty students from Urbana's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) were in DC as part of experiential learning program to meet with agricultural policy and business leaders. The ACE 199 Agribusiness Leadership and Policy class was led by Jon Scholl (Instructor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics) and Jessa Barnard (Academic Advisor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics). Their week-long itinerary included meetings with the American Farm Bureau Federation, USDA, The Nature Conservacy, EPA, the Renewable Fuels Association, and USAID, among others. They also spent a full day on Capitol Hill, where they met with Representatives Rodney Davis, Cheri Bustos, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Aaron Schock, Bill Foster, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, as well as with staff from other congressional offices.
Mark Rasenick, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Psychiatry at UIC's College of Medicine and Director of UIC's Biomedical Neuroscience Training Program, met with Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) officials about the blood test he developed for depression and its relevance to returning soldiers and veterans.
Paula Kaufman, Librarian at Urbana’s Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, engaged the Department of State, U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID), and other agencies on issues related to international education.
Jon Pyatt and Melissa Haas
OGR Federal Relations