Bush Proposes $6B for Bioterrorism Preparedness in FY 2003 Budget
President Bush announced yesterday that he would request about $38 billion to boost homeland security, including funds to improve the nation's response to bioterrorism, in his proposed fiscal year 2003 budget, the New York Times reports (Sanger, New York Times, 1/25). The $37.7 billion proposal -- "nearly double" the nation's spending on homeland security in FY 2002 -- would provide $6 billion for bioterrorism prevention, including research to develop new vaccines. In addition, the request includes $3.5 billion to train and provide equipment for police, fire and emergency medical technicians, a "ten-fold jump" from FY 2002 (Miller, Washington Post, 1/25). The $3.5 billion includes $1.1 billion to train emergency personnel to address chemical and biological attacks. Bush also said that he would use part of the $37.7 billion to improve the nation's public health system (Chen/Gold, Los Angeles Times, 1/25).
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday announced plans to begin to distribute $1.1 billion in FY 2002 funds, part of a $2.9 billion anti-bioterrorism bill that Congress passed last fall, to state and local governments to improve their public health systems (Washington Post, 1/25). The agency plans to release $200 million and withhold the "bulk of the money" until states submit "detailed preparedness plans" to improve their responses to biological attacks (Stolberg, New York Times, 1/25). Each state must outline "how it will respond to a bioterrorism event and other outbreaks of infectious disease" and "how it will strengthen core public health capacities" (HHS release, 1/25). Governors and the federal government must approve the plans, which will likely require future federal funding (Carroll/Cummings, Wall Street Journal, 1/25). States must submit plans to HHS between March 15 and May 15 (HHS release, 1/25). Thompson said that HHS would use a formula to determine the amount that each state would receive (Stolberg, New York Times, 1/25). "This is only the first step of many to help states build a stronger and more responsive public health infrastructure in the event of a bioterror attack. The federal government is going to help states and communities build a better connected health system, thereby strengthening the ability to respond to an attack," Thompson said (HHS release, 1/25).
HHS will use part of the $2.9 billion to provide $135 million to improve bioterrorism preparedness at hospitals. The American Hospital Association, however, has estimated that hospitals would "need about $11 billion to be fully prepared." In addition, the agency will spend $1 billion to purchase doses of smallpox vaccine. The agency also hopes plans to expand research on biological agents, impose new food safety measures and develop a communication system linking federal, state and local health departments to improve the nation's bioterrorism preparedness (Wall Street Journal, 1/25).
According to a study commissioned by the California HealthCare Foundation on the "feasibility of developing a Web-based public health reporting system" in the state, an "integrated Web-based system could significantly improve business and workflow management processes, provide appropriate security and data protection, improve the capture of high-quality data, provide greater capabilities for local health departments and simplify mandated reporting requirements" (CHF Web site).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.