Bush Budget Plan ‘Emphasizes’ Hospitals, Health Agencies
Public health agencies and hospitals are expected to receive a "major boost" in funding as part of President Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget, the Washington Post reports, citing the information to unnamed administration and congressional sources. Spending for homeland security is expected to be increased by $15 billion -- an increase of 43% over current funding levels -- with the "greatest emphasis" on helping public health care agencies and "first responders" prepare for future terrorist activities (Pianin/Miller, Washington Post, 12/22). Officials say the nation's health care system currently is not prepared to handle the casualties that would result from a biological or chemical attack (Mitchell, New York Times, 12/27). According to "administration sources," Bush's budget -- slated to be unveiled after the president's State of the Union address in January -- will more than double emergency funding for local police, fire and health authorities to about $2 billion. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the additional funds would be allocated through a "menu" of block grants administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Post reports the administration is also "concerned" about hospital bed shortages, which might prevent the facilities from handling a mass causality situation. According to Ridge, the budget will therefore "substantial[ly] increase" HHS spending on regional and local health agencies and hospitals to boost the number of available beds and "improve the detection and treatment of diseases." The American Hospital Association recently estimated the nation's hospitals would need $11.3 billion to improve their capabilities enough to handle a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, noted Ron Pollack, the group's executive vice president. The Post reports the budget is also expected to request $1.2 billion to stockpile medicines, including an anthrax vaccine and enough smallpox vaccine for every American (Washington Post, 12/22).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.