HHS Secretary Leavitt Interviewed on Variety of Health Care Topics
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Tuesday discussed various health topics in an interview with Associated Press editors and reporters. The topics are highlighted below.
Leavitt said that the commission he appointed to recommend ways to cut $10 billion from Medicaid over five years would "likely look" at proposals from the National Governors Association and determine that they "are pretty well thought-out ideas," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports.
Leavitt said, "What the governors have basically proposed is a series of things that have been talked about for 10 years." He said the governors' proposal to increase copayments and deductibles would make beneficiaries more conscious of the cost of health care.
Leavitt added, "If we weren't talking about a budget here, we'd be talking about this as reforms because this is what the governors want" (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun , 8/2).
Leavitt said that it is "in some ways an absolute certainty" that an avian flu pandemic or other flu pandemic eventually will occur in the U.S. (Freking, AP/Boston Globe, 8/3). Leavitt said, "I believe that we are at a greater risk of a pandemic than we've been for decades," adding that he has had three recent meetings with President Bush to discuss the matter.
Leavitt said the Bush administration is developing a domestic surveillance system in hospital emergency departments to give health officials an early warning if a flu pandemic or other health threat arises, adding that a quarantine in such an event is possible (Freking, AP/Las Vegas Sun , 8/2). He said the government's goal is to deliver vaccine within 12 hours of any decision to make vaccine available, but exercises have revealed that "the distribution systems are not adequate to put medicines in the hands of people fast enough."
Leavitt said, "We're looking at having more points of distribution, for example. We're experimenting with having the postal service being able to deliver them because they walk those routes every day." He added that firehouses also are being considered as distribution points.
Leavitt said the government would like to obtain 20 million doses of avian flu vaccine and 20 million doses of Tamiflu, an antiviral medication. It would take four to six months to produce the vaccine, and capacity is too low to produce both an avian flu and pandemic flu vaccine, he said. Leavitt added that it remains unknown how much vaccine is necessary to induce a response in humans (AP/Boston Globe, 8/3).
Leavitt said he does not believe Bush would change his position on expanding federal funding for stem cell research. "It's a moral decision with him," he said, adding, "I've seen no wavering on his part at all." Leavitt said he is "very comfortable with the president's decision."
Leavitt said that HHS will continue to monitor pharmaceutical companies' direct-to-consumer advertising "very carefully," despite voluntary guidelines that the industry announced on Tuesday. "We have the authority already to enforce limits when people are misleading, and we will use it," he said (AP/Las Vegas Sun , 8/3).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.