Bush to Cut Pediatrician Training Program
President Bush will call for a 15% cut in a program that provides funding -- $235 million this year -- to about 60 independent children's hospitals to train pediatricians and other doctors, the Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to White House spokesperson Jeanie Mamo, Bush will ask Congress for only $200 million for the program next year. She added, "That's five times greater than two years ago. I don't know how you can call that a cut." Prior to the announcement, "[w]ord had spread" among lawmakers, hospital officials and children's health advocates that "deeper cuts were on the way." Peters Willson, vice president of public policy at the National Association of Children's Hospitals, said that he "had been told" the administration had considered "slashing" nearly $200 million from the program. "From our standpoint, this reflects it is under reconsideration by the administration. We're hopeful," Willson said.
Although the federal government has provided funding for years to teaching hospitals for physician training through Medicare, children's hospitals, which treat few Medicare patients, "essentially had been left out of the equation." However, two years ago, Congress established a program to provide funding to children's hospitals and "authorized as much as $285 million a year." Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) earlier this month sent Bush a letter, urging him to increase, rather than cut, funding for the program in his FY 2002 budget. "Effectively left out of a graduate medical education financing system that depends on Medicare, [children's hospitals] simply could not continue to sustain their teaching programs and their other missions," Isakson told the paper. "Every administration has its priorities, and when they look to spend in one place, they look to cut in another," Isakson said, adding, "Hopefully, we can sustain the funding." Although Bush has proposed increasing the budget for HHS, which administers the physician training program, by $2.7 billion, the budget includes $2.8 billion more for NIH, "which means that other programs would be cut" (Sherman, Cox News Service/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/29).