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DESPITE INITIAL FY2008 FLAT FUNDING OF NIH, NEI FUNDING FOR VISION RESEARCH INCREASES BY $6.5 MILLION OVER FY2007, BUT STILL DOES NOT KEEP PACE WITH INFLATION

Legislative Update
October 1, 2008

National Eye Institute (NEI) funding for vision researchers increased by $6.5 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 as compared to FY2007. Although the NEI was flat-funded (as were the majority of National Institutes of Health Institutes and Centers) at $667.1 million in initial FY2008 appropriations, the Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by the President on June 30, 2008, provided $150 million in additional NIH funding, $3.5 million of which was programmed to the NEI, which also received $3 million for vision researchers from the NIH Directorís Bridge Fund within the NIH common fund. Despite this increase, however, NEI funding in FY2008 did not keep pace with the biomedical inflation rate of 3.5 percent, resulting in a loss of NEI purchasing power of 18 percent in the past 5 funding cycles.

Although the proposed FY2009 House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bills contain $1 billion-plus increases for the NIH and $20 million-plus increases for the NEI, these bills have not been finalized. The Continuing Resolution (CR) signed by President Bush on September 30 flat-funds the NIH and NEI at the initial FY2008 funding level until March 6, 2009, when the 111th Congress must take action to finalize FY2009 appropriations which have not already been finalized in the CR, as were the Defense, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security spending bills.

Despite the current economic challenges, NAEVR will continue to urge Congress to finalize FY2009 NIH appropriations at the proposed levels, as medical research is a cost-effective investment. NEIís research into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eye disease and vision impairment reduces healthcare costs, increases productivity, ensures independence, and maintains quality of life.