Budget season opens: The President is expected to submit his budget recommendation to Congress on March 4th one month later than regular order requires. The FY15 budget proposal was delayed since Congress, not acting within regular order of the appropriations process, did not agree to FY14 funding until earlier this year. The FY15 recommendation will be short on details when initially presented. More complete information including Congressional Justifications by each agency are expected to trickle out over the following weeks.
The budget the President will submit to Congress is expected to be written in accordance with the FY15 discretionary levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act. In that legislation FY total discretionary funding would be set at $1.013 trillion. Defense discretion funding would equal $521 billion and non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding would equal $492 billion.
Economic forecasting: On February 4th, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) held a hearing on the economic status of the United States. Her opening statement reflected her interest in finding an approach to economic progress that eliminates the crisis-to-crisis approach of the past few years. A particularly useful analysis of the current and future economic outlook was presented by Dr. Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics. Dr. Zandi made it clear that while the short-term outlook is good, mounting pressure from entitlement programs and the need for tax reform make the long-term outlook tenuous.
The Senate Budget Committee has held two additional hearings. Hearing witnesses and their testimonies are available on the committee Web site.
Similarly, the House Budget Committee, chaired by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has held three hearings with the primary focus of those hearings being the economic status of the United States. Information on those hearings including witnesses and their testimony is available on the House Budget Committee Web site.
Distance ed fraud: The Office of the Inspector General for the US Department of Education has published a report that provides several recommendations for improving the integrity of distance education programs. The report: Title IV of the Higher Education Act Programs: Additional Safeguards Are Needed to Help Mitigate the Risks That Are Unique to the Distance Education Environment presents the findings of the Inspector General based on an audit of the Departments compliance with requirements and guidance related to Title IV financial assistance funds disbursed to distance education programs. The report recognizes that while the Department did promulgate rules to reduce the risk of fraudulent activity related to distance education programs, there remains a significant risk related to ensuring the identity of the student and the attendance of that student.
Recommendations from the report include: the creation of rules that require an institution that provides a distance education program to verify the identity of the student upon enrollment; the creation of additional regulation that clarifies how student attendance is to be defined; and require institutions to establish the cost of attendance for various categories of students and ensure that professional judgement on a case-by-case basis ensures that the appropriate cost is attributed to the appropriate category of student.
Matching research and policy relevance: Ever wonder if your research has any impact on public policy? Ever wonder why public policy seems void of evidence? Through its “Listening Series,” AcademyHealth listened to what type of evidence policy makers identified as important in helping them and others make better public policy. Because of its importance both in providing healthcare insurance to older adults and its increasing impact on current and future fiscal policy Medicare was the focus of a recent listening session. “The AcademyHealth Listening Project: Improving the Evidence Base for Medicare Policymaking,” presents the viewpoints of a number of policy experts as well as their recommendations to guide future research. Recommendations found in the report include:
1. Help Policymakers Understand Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Medicare Advantage Plans, and Consolidated Markets Research and continue research that further illuminates the cost of care. This help includes insight into the structure, impact on care coordination, and compensation of providers in emerging healthcare delivery systems;
2. Improve the quality of data especially data that relates to healthcare quality, Medicare Advantage and physician practice;
3. Share the benefits and challenges of new research approaches such as large data sets, electronic data, rapid-cycle innovation, and comparative effectiveness research;
4. Researchers MUST recognize that politics influences policy decisions as much if not more than evidence and to include that fact into the research they undertake if they expect their research to have an impact on public policy; and
5. Personal relationships with policymakers may be of greater value than completed research. Being comfortable describing your ongoing or incomplete work as it applies to current policy discussions can improve public policy development in the short run and builds support for your research in the long run.
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Founded in 1900, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is a national organization representing the interests of pharmacy education and educators. Comprising all accredited colleges and schools of pharmacy including more than 6,400 faculty, 57,000 students enrolled in professional programs and 5,700 individuals pursuing graduate study, AACP is committed to excellence in pharmacy education.