Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bush Budget Calls for Cuts in Health Services

By ROBERT PEAR
“President Bush's budget for 2006 cuts spending for a wide range of public health programs, including several to protect the nation against bioterrorist attacks and to respond to medical emergencies, budget documents show.

Faced with constraints on spending caused by record budget deficits and the demands of the war in Iraq, administration officials said on Friday that they had increased the budget for some health programs but cut many others, including some that address urgent health care needs.

The documents show, for example, that Mr. Bush would cut spending for several programs that deal with epidemics, chronic diseases and obesity. His plan would also cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 9 percent, to $6.9 billion, the documents show.

The cuts are part of an attempt to control the federal deficit, while increasing spending on certain priority programs. Administration officials have said that in the budget, to be unveiled on Monday, Mr. Bush will propose that overall domestic spending, aside from entitlements, grows less than the rate of inflation next year.

But the administration is proposing to increase the Pentagon budget by 4.8 percent, to $419.3 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, according to Defense Department budget documents obtained by The New York Times. That sum does not include the costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, now running about $5 billion a month. Within a few weeks, the administration is expected to request about $80 billion to cover those costs.

The president's approach to domestic programs is illustrated in the way he balances competing claims at the Centers for Disease Control.

Mr. Bush requests money to expand a national stockpile of vaccines and antibiotics. But the public health emergency fund of the centers, which helps state and local agencies prepare for bioterror attacks, would be cut 12.6 percent, to $1 billion.”

Kim A. Elliott, deputy director of the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit advocacy group, said, "It's robbing Peter to pay Paul when you build up the national stockpile at the expense of bioterrorism preparedness activities at the state and local level."

Administration officials acknowledged that some of the proposed cuts would affect high-priority programs. But they said that the budget this year was exceptionally tight and that, in some cases, several programs served the same basic purpose.

Over all, the president's budget would reduce the Department of Health and Human Services' discretionary spending - the amounts subject to annual appropriations - by 2.4 percent, to $68 billion. According to documents, obtained from budget analysts who opposed the cuts, those figures do not include Medicare costs, which will increase sharply with the addition of a prescription drug benefit in 2006.

A Public Health Service program for "chronic disease prevention and health promotion" would be cut by 6.5 percent, to $841 million in 2006. The program finances efforts to prevent and control obesity, which federal health officials say has reached epidemic proportions.

The president's budget would also eliminate a block grant that provides $131 million for preventive health services. Under federal law, the money is used to "address urgent health problems," which vary from state to state.

Under the president's request, the budget of the National Institutes of Health, which doubled from 1998 to 2003, would rise by 0.7 percent, to $28.7 billion next year. That is much less than what would be needed to keep pace with the costs of biomedical research, which are rising more than 3.5 percent a year.…

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/05/politics/
05cuts.html?ex=1108270800&en=f194f4fca09c1ac8&ei=5070

con·cept: Bush Budget Calls for Cuts in Health Services