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Blunt says boost in NIH funding will produce jobs, save tax dollars

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Senator Blunt | Flickr
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says boosting investments in health care research now will be good for Missouri.

The $1.1 trillion federal spending plan approved earlier this month includes about a 7 percent increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health. Blunt chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIH. He says the increase will raise NIH funding to $32 billion for next year.

As lawmakers were preparing to vote on the massive spending plan earlier this month, Blunt spoke in the Senateabout three “critical reasons” he says the federal government should invest in health-care research: Basic health needs, projected increases in long-term health problems such as Alzheimer’s and job growth in related areas.

“Health-care research, frankly just isn’t going to happen, in the way it should happen, unless the government steps forward,” he said.

With more Americans surviving such ailments as cancer and heart attacks, Blunt says more people will be dealing with the impact of Alzheimer’s - for years, and in some cases, decades. He says research can help alleviate some of that burden.

One projection he cited shows federal Medicare spending for Alzheimer’s and related health care hitting $1 trillion by 2050. Blunt said that is almost as much as the entire omnibus plan.

“So, take all the money we’re spending today on discretionary spending and suddenly that’s the same amount of money, in just a few decades, we’d be spending because of Alzheimer’s.” That potential for saving taxpayers money down the road is one of Blunt’s primary reasons for pushing the increase in NIH funding.

Finally, Blunt says he sees long-term job growth in Missouri from increased health-care research. He specifically talked about work being done by the University of Missouri-Columbia and academic and medical facilities across the state. “Where that research is done … is likely to be where many of those jobs turn out to be,” Blunt said. “So, certainly, health care is, and will turn out to be, a big economic driver - the multiplication of economic impact, in a positive way, of what we invest in health care, is pretty dramatic.”

Blunt said that from 1996 to 2003 funding for NIH more than doubled. But with no increases since then, Blunt said NIH has actually seen a roughly 25 percent decline in buying power over the last 12 years. He said the current increase was beginning the process of catching up to that lost financial strength.