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NCI Budget Increase Keeps 5-Year Doubling in Sight

NCI Budget Increase Keeps 5-Year Doubling in Sight

Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), cochair of the Senate Cancer Coalition, was quite happy that the Senate approved a National Institutes of Health budget for fiscal year 2001 (starting October 1) that would be a $2.7 billion increase over the current year. The NCI budget would increase to $3.3 billion. This puts the NCI on track to double its budget over 5 years, which Vice President Gore advocated in June. While Gore emphasized the importance of NCI funding on research, he also highlighted the need to improve early detection, backing a new “fast track” Medicare approval for cutting-edge prevention and detection benefits. “Medicare still does not cover some prevention benefits, such as some common prostate cancer screenings,” he said. Nevertheless, Medicare is in the process of reducing reimbursements for some types of cancer screenings. Some mammography screening centers will be in tough shape soon, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), which says Medicare wants to reduce the payment for bilateral diagnostic mammography from $50.89 to $33.94. Yank Coble, md, a member of the AMA board of directors, told a House hearing that the decrease is compounded by the new outpatient bundling payment schedule, which makes the payment the same whether the mammogram is of one breast or both breasts. “The threat to access to mammography services is very clear and quite disturbing,” he emphasized.

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