October 1999 Bulletin

Bill seeks research fund

NIH would get share of health premiums

While health care spending devours more than $1 trillion annually, the medical research budget is dying of starvation, says Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and he wants to feed it with a share of the all health premiums.

For the third consecutive congressional session, Sen. Harkin has introduced a bill to create a fund to provide additional resources for health research, in addition to those provided to the National Institutes of Health in the annual appropriations process.

To finance the National Fund for Health Research, health plans would set aside approximately 1 percent of all health premiums and transfer the funds to the national fund. Each year, amounts in the fund would be automatically allocated to each of the NIH institutes and centers. Each institute and center would receive the same percentage as they receive of the total NIH appropriation for that fiscal year.

"The United States devotes less than 3 percent of its total health care budget to health research," Sen. Harkin said. "The defense Department spends 15 percent of its budget on research. Does this make sense? The Cold War is over, but the war on disease and disability continues."

Sen. Harkin said increased investment in health research is the key to reducing health care costs in the future. Alzheimer's disease will more than triple in the coming century, adding to further strains on Medicare, he said. But, he added, research can produce a breakthrough to delay the onset of the disease.

Sen. Arlen Spector, (R-Pa.) is cosponsor of the bill.

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