UI, UIHC prepare for cuts following Supercommittee failure


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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and graduate research funding could see significant funding cuts following the failure of a federal Supercommittee to reach a deficit-reduction agreement, UI officials said.

The Congressional Supercommittee was tasked with developing a plan to cut $1.5 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years by Nov. 23, but it failed to reach an agreement.

The failure to reach an agreement will trigger a 2 percent across-the-board spending cut of approximately $1.2 trillion, effective Jan. 15, 2013.

Defense and domestic discretionary funding — including education, health care, energy, environment, and transportation — will be impacted by the cuts.

And though the cuts are not effective until 2013, UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard said UIHC will ponder cutting expenses in preparation.

"We will have to do some cuts to reduce expenses because we have to have a positive budget at the end of the line," Robillard said. "But we haven't decided where they will be yet."

Robillard said UIHC could see a $5.3 million funding cut in Medicare and a $780,000 reimbursement cut to physicians.

The UI has received $155.7 million in federal funding from July to October 2011, including $99.5 million for medicine/public health research enterprise.

"A good chunk of those discretionary programs speak to federal support for research in schools," said UI Teaching and Learning Department Chairman Peter Hlebowitsh. "Clearly there would be a significant chunk of money excised from the budget that would support research in schools."

And the department of teaching and learning for the College of Education is sitting on approximately $8 million in federal grant funding.

"There is a lot of money that comes flowing into the University of Iowa," Hlebowitsh said. "That means we're in a climate of shrinking grant resources, and it's serious business, because we support grad students."

Similarly, measures are being taken to protect research investments, said UI Vice President for Research Jordan Cohen.

"It's something we're always looking for to enhance our faculty competitiveness," Cohen said. "We are looking for non-federal options for research options."

But not all funding cuts to the UI are certain.

"The reality is that we don't really know yet," Cohen said. "We are anticipating there could be reductions in investments for research spending, but there is no way to judge how [the cuts] will be allocated."

Joe Hand, the communications director for Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, had similar thoughts.

"Grant funding could come under scrutiny, so money for research could be cut, but we have no idea how it will affect the university," he said.

And the cuts could even be altered.

"Some people want to change the automatic spending cuts, especially in defense to protect our country," Hand said.

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