Mayo explores impact of cuts

Mayo Clinic has once again stepped upon the national stage seeking attention it previously shied from.

Public policy positions were unusual for Mayo before it created its " Health Policy Center " and took a stance on the Affordable Care Act during and after the 2008 presidential campaign.

Clinic officials made clear that Mayo supports universal access to affordable health insurance and called the act a good first step.

Now, the clinic has boldly let the American Cancer Society host clinic leaders, politicians from both sides of the aisle and cancer survivors at the clinic's Gonda Building. During the gathering, Minnesota legislators from both major parties supported the Mayo, Cancer Society and Hormel Institute view that cuts to National Institutes of Health funding would be a mistake.

Dr. Patricia Simmons, Mayo medical director of government affairs and a University of Minnesota regent, wrote a clinic opinion "perspective."


"Medical research should not be viewed as an expense to the Federal government, but rather it should be viewed as an investment in our nation's health and economy," Simmons wrote.

Why should Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit, take such a strong public position? According to Simmons, more than 41 percent of Mayo's research budget comes from NIH grants; more than $221 million in 2010. More than 3,200 Mayo workers are funded "in part" by NIH money.

"In Minnesota, an estimated 16 to 18 jobs are created for every $1 million spent on medical research," Simmons wrote. "These NIH cuts could mean a loss of $11.5 million at Mayo Clinic and 184 professionals who would have to stop their current research this year."

Now, the choice for the federal "Super Committee" that will make recommendations to Congress, is whether across-the-board cuts make more sense than targeted cuts. Resources are limited, so the country obviously can't support everything that we'd like.

But Simmons, speaking on behalf of Mayo Clinic, says "knowledge and innovation are vital components of a patient-centered, high-value health care system as they allow us to continuously develop health care of the future."

Seems to me, Mayo is suggesting that cuts to federal research would create more than just a short-term fix to a hopefully temporary budget problem. Rather, those cuts would impact the future of health in the United States.

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