Republicans say NIH funding "insufficient"

Senate Republicans raised concerns on Wednesday that the proposed 2013 funding levels for the National Institute of Health were insufficient.

The remarks were made at an appropriations subcommittee hearing for the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Our nation's leading researchers will never find a cure for the debilitating diseases that affect us without a commitment to advancing medical research" Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said.

Shelby went on to question whether the current funding levels would damage America's ability to compete in the arena of biotechnology.

"It is critical to invest in biomedical research to ensure the U.S. continues to make progress towards medical discoveries that improve lives, make treatment more effective, and lower overall health care costs," Shelby said.

The current proposed budget would allocate $31 billion for the NIH, maintaining the same funding as fiscal year 2011 and 2012.

"The request does not keep pace with biomedical research inflation and as a result, in inflationary adjusted dollars, the NIH is nearly 20 percent below where they were 10 years ago," Shelby said.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also questioned spending priorities, noting budget increases for Medicare and Medicaid.

"We're expanding government programs that need to be reformed, not expanded," Graham said.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted the Republican's concerns, but cited the aging population of baby boomers as the main cause of budgeting priorities. Sebelius also pointed out that the budget allocation would overhaul the NIH grant-making process, actually increasing the number of research grants by 7.7 percent.