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Bush Budget Would Add $58B to Top Health Agency

Local health clinics would gain, CDC would lose, officials say

MONDAY, Feb. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlined Monday its proposed budget for fiscal year 2006, one that includes cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and gains for local community health clinics.

"The president and I share an aggressive agenda for this department, an agenda that advances a healthier, stronger America while upholding fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of people's money," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

HHS has asked for a total of $642 billion for next fiscal year, an increase of $58 billion or almost 10 percent over 2005, Leavitt said.

The majority of that total consists of mandatory outlays set by law. The discretionary segment of the budget amounts to $67.2 million, a decline of about 1 percent from the last fiscal year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, part of HHS, is requesting $1.9 billion for fiscal 2006, which represents a 4.5 percent increase over fiscal year 2005.

"This demonstrates a recognition that FDA's innovation and consumer protection are needed more than ever," Kathleen Heuer, the FDA's chief financial officer and associate commissioner for management, said at a separate news conference Monday.

The requests were part of the $2.57 trillion budget that President Bush submitted to Congress on Monday. The budget calls for spending cuts in a variety of areas, including the environment and education, while proposing increases for the military and homeland security, The New York Times reported.

The proposed HHS budget includes $2 billion -- an increase of $304 million from last year -- earmarked to fund migrant and community health, including 1,200 new or expanded sites serving an additional 6.1 million people. In addition, $26 million would go toward funding 40 new health centers in counties with high poverty levels.

"We have established a new goal of helping every poor county in America which lacks community centers to fund one," Leavitt said.

On the bioterrorism and national security front, the department requested $4.3 billion "to strengthen public health preparedness," including allowing the CDC to expand the strategic national stockpile of medical supplies, and the FDA to defend the nation's food supply. Included within this is $1.3 billion to support state and public hospital preparedness.

The FDA requested $180 million to better safeguard the nation's food supply, an increase of $30.1 million from last year. It also asked for an additional $5.9 million for review of medical devices and an extra $5 million for the Office of Drug Safety, whose total budget would be $33.4 million.

With that money, the Office of Drug Safety, which has come under criticism in the wake of the Vioxx debacle, would increase its full-time staff from 109 to 134 under the proposal.

Those new employees would focus on monitoring biologic therapeutics and medical error detection and evaluating drug safety risks for the American public, Heuer said.

Stating that "healthy people depend on healthy families" and that "healthy families are sustained by fundamental values," Leavitt also outlined plans for programs that promote abstinence before marriage, strong marriages, cognitive development of young children and "loving bonds" between children and fathers. Spending in all four areas would increase under the proposal, he said.

If the budget is approved, abstinence education would get $206 million, an increase of $39 million. "This will help educate adolescents and their parents of the health risks of early sexual activity," Leavitt said.

HHS is also requesting $1 billion to promote healthy marriage through "demonstrations, research and state programs," $6.9 billion for Head Start, the school-readiness development program for low-income children; and an increase of $200 million for an initiative that helps unwed fathers establish stronger ties with their children.

An additional $50 million was requested for programs to mentor children of prisoners, Leavitt said. "This will help establish 33,000 new mentoring relationships for children whose parents are in prison or recently released from prison," he added.

Leavitt also said he was "optimistic that we will see a reauthorization of the TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] program and child welfare... I am not only optimistic but pledge to do all we can to ensure it is reauthorized."

The CDC would face some cuts under the proposed budget, including a moratorium on new buildings, and the anticipated end of the five-year VERB media campaign to promote physical activity among 9 to 13 year olds, Leavitt said.

Calling Medicaid "rigidly inflexible and hence inefficient and unsustainable in its current form," Leavitt also outlined plans to spend $16 billion over the next decade to support targeted benefit packages and extend the benefits to people who are uninsured.

With the budget only hours old, criticism emerged -- and not just from Democrats upset by many of the cuts.

The American Heart Association, in a prepared statement, said Bush's proposed budget would "again shortchange Americans' health as we battle against our nation's most deadly and costly health threats -- heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases."

"We applaud the President for all his work to safeguard Americans," said William Colledge, chairman of the AHA board of directors. "But, we believe part of providing safety and security is to fight the diseases that kill the most Americans. The proposed budget invests too little in the search for cures and the prevention of our No. 1 killer, heart disease, and stroke, the third leading cause of death."

More information

Visit the Department of Health and Human Services for more on the 2006 budget.

SOURCES: Feb. 7, 2005, press conference with Mike Leavitt, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Feb. 7, 2005, press conference with Kathleen Heuer, chief financial officer and associate commissioner for management, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Feb. 7, 2005, prepared statement, American Heart Association
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