Frist, Kennedy Prepare Two-Track Approach for Legislation
After several delays, Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said yesterday they will likely introduce a "joint bioterrorism authorization bill" next week to bolster preparedness for a possible attack, CongressDaily reports. Kennedy and Frist are working on two "separate tracks." The first is a $1.5 billion request to fund an authorization passed last year (Rovner, CongressDaily, 11/1). The measure, part of a package called the "Public Health Improvement Act," calls for $99 million to assess and upgrade public health agencies' ability to detect, diagnose and contain disease outbreaks, as well as $180 million toward a $1 billion renovation of CDC laboratories. Second, the senators are seeking a "follow-up authorization" of $3 billion to improve food supply safety and develop new drugs and vaccines against bioterrorism(CongressDaily, 11/1).
Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association issued a 13-page "white paper" yesterday calling for $11.3 billion in funding from Congress to increase hospitals' preparedness for a biological, chemical or nuclear attack. AHA leaders said that none of the group's 5,000 members is "fully prepared" to handle a mass-casualty situation, and that the funding is needed to "improve their facilities, procedures and inventories of medical supplies." The association is also "reviving its lobbying efforts" on non-bioterrorism issues, advocating against cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and for a delay of federal patient privacy rules. The group says hospitals need "more funds and less red tape" as they seek to increase their bioterrorism response capabilities. AHA President Richard Davidson wrote in a letter to Congress: "We are very concerned that actual reductions in government reimbursements to hospitals ... would be particularly damaging given the enormous responsibilities and investments required to meet the challenges associated with emergency readiness" (Hallam, Bloomberg, 11/1).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.