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The automatic spending cuts demanded by the sequestration that kicked in March 1 go across the federal healthcare agencies. How will they affect continuing medical education and pharmaceutical meetings? Here are some possibilities.
Now that sequestration—a series of automatic federal program spending cuts that will total $1.2 trillion over the next nine years, $85 billion of which will happen by the end of fiscal 2013—is a reality, medical meeting professionals are left trying to tease out what potential effects it could have on their businesses.
Many travel and hospitality specialists expect that many meetings will be affected in some way, be they medical society conferences, pharmaceutical advisory board meetings, or events unrelated to healthcare. The American Hotel and Lodging Association predicts that federal agencies will put employee travel to conferences at the top of their cut list as they look for ways to reduce their budgets. Healthcare e-learning specialist Jeremy Lundberg, CEO, DLC Solutions and EthosCE LMS, says he already has heard from medical associations whose membership comprises a large percentage of federal employees who want his company’s help to move from live meetings to e-learning CME because of travel bans. “They are having a big increase in registrant cancellations for spring meetings, which can be their primary source of annual revenue. Sequestration named as the primary driver.”
John JD Juchniewicz, MCIS, CCMEP, president of the American Academy of CME, Inc., agrees. “Government travel is definitely being affected,” he says. “So if you conduct live CE-certified events with federal [healthcare professional] attendees, you're likely seeing an impact.”
Getting to events may also get a little more difficult and time-consuming for attendees who aren’t experiencing a travel ban as the sequestration cuts go into effect. Because most federal agencies are required to provide a 30-day furlough notice for widespread staffing cutbacks, the full effects of some of the budget reductions that took effect on March 1 won’t be felt until April. However, some airports are already experiencing longer lines at security checkpoints as the Transportation Security Administration reduces overtime for its staff, according to Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, though airport officials disagree that it is affecting domestic travel already. The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to furlough many of its employees, which could cause flight delays and cancellations if airports have to shut down runways and cut shifts for their air traffic controllers, particularly at smaller and mid-sized airports.
Medical congresses with a high concentration of international attendees may also find their global guests facing longer wait times to get through customs and immigration. As Napolitano said recently, you can expect longer wait times at customs and immigration, as well as at Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints, as overtime, a hiring freeze, and furloughs go into effect at TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.