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Chairman Barton Plans Mid-September Release of NIH Reauthorization Legislation

Legislative Update
August 31, 2006

NAEVR Board Director and Alcon Laboratories President and CEO Cary Rayment with Chairman Barton
NAEVR Board Director and Alcon Laboratories President and CEO Cary Rayment with Chairman Barton

NAEVR participated in an August 30 meeting held by the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) with House Energy and Commerce Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) at the Ft. Worth, Texas, headquarters of Alcon Laboratories. In his introductory comments, Chairman Barton noted that, although healthcare is a top three priority for the Committee, this session’s activities to date have focused primarily on energy and telecommunications. He plans to focus on healthcare issues in September, including the introduction of legislation to reauthorize the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The legislation would build upon initial legislative drafts distributed by Committee staff in July and August 2005. NAEVR opposed those drafts, as they proposed to "cluster" individual Institute budgets into three budget line items: the Office of the Director; "mission-specific Institutes", including the National Eye Institute (NEI); and "science-enabling" Institutes and Centers. Without a dedicated budget, the ability of the NEI Director to appropriately lead the nation’s vision research commitment could potentially be jeopardized. In advance of the latest legislative language, however, NAEVR has been assured by E&C staff that the cluster concept has been abandoned.

In August 30 and June 2 comments, Chairman Barton has emphasized the importance of a "common fund" for trans-Institute research. He has indicated that the latest legislative language would increase individual Institute contributions to the common fund so that NIH focuses on research that will have the greatest impact and benefit. He emphasized that the Committee’s goals with respect to NIH management, as well as that for all other healthcare-related federal agencies, are twofold: to make changes necessary to spend limited federal healthcare dollars wisely, and to have transparent and accountable mechanisms within the government entities spending those dollars.

NAEVR will analyze the impending legislation and develop Talking Points about any potential impact on NEI-managed eye and vision research.