Bush Proposes Health Spending Boost in Budget Plan
The $1.96 trillion budget package that President Bush unveiled yesterday contains several provisions for health care spending, including a 5.2% boost for HHS, the Washington Post reports. Under the proposed budget, HHS would receive an additional $21 billion for Medicare, including $11 billion for Bush's "Immediate Helping Hand" prescription drug benefit package for low-income seniors, and $10 billion for increased reimbursements to hospitals and other health care providers (Kaufman, Washington Post, 3/1). The proposal also includes an additional $156 billion "this year and over 10 years for Medicare reform (Rovner, CongressDaily, 2/28). In addition, the budget would "continue the steep rise" in NIH funding, raising the agency's budget by $2.8 billion, or 13.6%, to $23.1 billion (Washington Post, 3/1). The NIH may use the funding to finance new grants and to back some "one-time activities," such as "high-priority construction and renovation projects" (HHS release, 2/28). While Bush called the NIH funding boost part of a "presidential initiative to double NIH's funding level by 2003," CongressDaily reports that the increase "actually falls short" of the 15% required to reach that target, according to congressional estimates (CongressDaily, 2/28).
In addition, Bush has proposed a $111 million hike for substance abuse treatment services, including $100 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help "close the treatment gap." The increase would include $60 million for block grants to states to help fund treatment programs and $40 million for "Targeted Capacity Expansion" grants to support a "rapid, strategic response to emerging trends in substance abuse." Bush also included a provision in the budget that would provide a $124 million increase for community health centers, the first installment of a "multi-year" plan to increase the number of CHCs by 1,200 (HHS release, 2/28). However, Bush's budget also included several "unspecified cuts" to programs to help train health professionals and a provision that would eliminate the $125 million Community Access Program, established by the Clinton administration "to better integrate the delivery of health care services." The administration has also "tak[en] initial steps to further address" a Medicaid loophole that cost the federal government about $2 billion in FY 2000 (CongressDaily, 2/28).