Budget Should Not Focus on Bioterror Over Health System
Some of the funding that President Bush's proposed fiscal year 2003 budget "showers" on bioterrorism prevention should be reallocated to finance the "equally imperative job of bolstering" the rest of the nation's health system, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. Bush's plan proposes a "whopping" $11 billion over the next two years for bioterrorism defense, depriving the health system of "money to offer basic medical services to the nation's poor," according to the Times. The editorial recommends reversing the budget proposal's $57 million cut in the CDC's chronic disease prevention efforts and its $184 million cut in reimbursements to California hospitals that serve low-income and uninsured people, as well as adding money to help states cover their Medicaid costs. In addition, Bush should begin "seriously grappling" with "soaring" medical costs, which his budget plan "doesn't acknowledge, much less address," the Times states. Given Bush's "great popularity," the editorial concludes that he has the opportunity to "create a health care system that is conservative in controlling costs and compassionate in guaranteeing that even the poor will receive at least a measure of good care" (Los Angeles Times, 2/8).
Meanwhile, George Will writes in his Washington Post column that the "cheerful implication" of President Bush's "otherwise ominous" anti-bioterrorism budget request is that the need to protect against immediate bioterrorist threats could lead to research that would help produce long-term public health gains. Over the centuries, Will points out, "modern war has driven dramatic improvements in public health, from Florence Nightingale's professionalization of nursing during the Crimean War to advances in surgery and control of infectious diseases." According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bush's funding request -- which would more than quadruple current anti-bioterrorism funding -- would, for example, enhance scientists' understanding of microbes that can be used in an attack, resulting in "more effective vaccines with less toxicity." Will concludes, "The president's proposed $5.9 billion is a bargain. It will improve public safety immediately and public health eventually" (Will, Washington Post, 2/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.