Bush Signs Health Care-Related Bills
President Bush on Tuesday signed bills to improve U.S. preparedness for biological threats and disease outbreaks, provide federal funds for autism research and reauthorize a law that funds HIV/AIDS programs, AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Riechmann, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/19).
The preparedness law (S 3678), sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), reauthorizes through 2011 a law designed to increase vaccine production and prepare for other biological threats.
The law makes HHS the lead agency in public health and medical response to bioterrorist attacks and disease outbreaks and makes the National Disaster Medical System, currently part of the Department of Homeland Security, part of HHS.
The law also requires the HHS secretary to prepare and implement a national preparedness and response strategy and to begin to submit the strategy to Congress in 2009, followed by revisions every four years, and awards $1 billion in federal grants annually to states to establish public health and medical preparedness strategies.
In addition, the law establishes the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. BARDA will coordinate federal efforts to produce countermeasures against biological threats and diseases such as pandemic flu (Berger, CQ HealthBeat, 11/10).
BARDA will distribute $1.07 billion over two years to biotechnology companies for the development of vaccines and treatments.
Burr said, "We're becoming their venture capitalist. And the advantage is, we get to look at their data every day if we want to" (Barrett, McClatchy/San Jose Mercury News, 12/20).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that the legislation "will increase our preparedness and response capabilities for public health emergencies by increasing our medical surge capacity, strengthening our public health infrastructure and clarifying the responsibilities of federal officials" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/20).
The autism law (S 843), sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), authorizes $945 million over five years for autism research, screenings, treatment and education (George, CQ Today, 12/7).
The law calls for $643 million for autism research, screening of all U.S. children, tens of millions of dollars for public education and the presentation of an annual report to Congress.
In a statement, Bush said that the law "will increase public awareness about this disorder and provide enhanced federal support for autism research and treatment" (Young, Bergen Record, 12/20).
The HIV/AIDS law reauthorizes for three years the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides $2.1 billion annually for HIV/AIDS programs in the U.S. The law shifts more funds to rural areas and the South (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/19).