HHS budget cuts $120 million from pandemic preparation, shifts money to rural health delivery

Published 14 December 2005

To overcome House objections to initial HHS budget proposal, money aimed to prepare for avian flu was shifted to other purposes, one hopes this is only temporary

Many of the measures aimed to confronting pandemics and bioterror attacks are within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), so we should be interested in the battle taking place in Congress these days over the HHS budget. Conferees approved — for the second time — the fiscal 2006 Labor-HHS appropriations conference report two days ago, with Republicans on the panel expressing the hope that addressing the issue of rural health delivery to the tune of $180 million will win over GOP votes which joined all of the House Democrats to defeat the original measure. The rewritten measure added $90 million for rural health programs, and included $9 million for a rural health research center within the HHS.

To come up with the $180 million for rural health care delivery, the new version of the bill cuts spending for flu preparedness by $120 million and implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug bill by $60 million. House members will soon take up separate legislation to provide funding for a potential outbreak of avian flu, a move now made necessary by the move of money from flu preparedness to rural health. The panel called for $142.5 billion for HHS for fiscal 2006, compared with $143.5 billion during fiscal 2005.

-read more in this report