Budget Negotiators Approve $22.5B for Veterans’ Health Administration
House and Senate budget negotiators on Monday approved a $22.5 billion appropriation for Veterans Health Administration medical services -- $2.5 billion more than President Bush had requested --- and considered funding reductions for HHS, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The VHA appropriation would include $1.225 billion in emergency funds. According to the Journal, "veterans health care is one of the few areas where the Republican leadership appears willing now to agree to exemptions from the spending caps set last spring" for fiscal year 2006.
Meanwhile, a proposal made on Monday would "cut almost across the board for training and education programs" under HHS, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, the Journal reports. The proposal would reduce funds for training health professionals for FY 2006 by 45% from FY 2005. As a result, the proposal would eliminate most of the funds for the Centers for Excellence program, which helps historically black medical schools.
In addition, under the proposal, NIH would receive $28.6 billion for FY 2006, a less than 1% increase from FY 2005 and the smallest since the 1970s. NIH also is "vulnerable ... to a second year-end round of spending cuts, which Republicans are already promising once the appropriations bills are negotiated," according to the Journal.
The proposal also would provide "only a fraction" of the funding increase that Bush had requested for community health centers, the Journal reports.
According to the Journal, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was "clearly uncomfortable with the direction of the negotiations." He said, "Without health we are nothing. Without education we have lost the key to the future" (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 11/15).