April 9, 2001 (Washington) -- Taking a key early step in the
annual Washington budget negotiations dance, the administration Monday
officially delivered to Congress hundreds of pages of documents containing its
proposals for national spending for 2002.
In late February, Bush released initial budget numbers, but
this submission fills in the details of his plan. Overall, President Bush is
asking for $55.5 billion for discretionary programs under the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS), a 5.1% increase over last year.
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Nearly all of the health spending increase goes to the National
Institutes of Health, which is getting a 13.5%, or $2.8 billion, boost for its
biomedical research activities. Another big winner is the FDA, which is netting
a nearly 10% boost, with large increases in food safety initiatives, including
a mad cow disease prevention effort and tougher rules for imported food and
At the same time, the budget cuts funds by 3% at the CDC, as
well as money for various public health programs, including a hemophilia relief
program, "community access" grants to coordinate the delivery of
safety-net healthcare, and other initiatives.
"There's some grumbling," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson
acknowledged, regarding those agencies that received cuts. But he contended
that many of the cutbacks were "one-time" set-aside projects done for
specific members of Congress.
Thompson said, "The American people don't expect annual
budgets to be growing by double digits, for their family budgets certainly
don't grow at that pace."
The proposal would also slash spending on grants for the
training of doctors. And to speed conversion to electronic billing, the plan
would also charge doctors and other providers a $1.50 fee for submitting
paper-based reimbursement claims to Medicare.
But Thompson touted a $123 million increase in spending on
safety-net community health centers and a 7.2% increase for government efforts
in AIDS/HIV research, treatment, and prevention. Thompson repeatedly spoke of
the hope of finding an AIDS vaccine.
The health budget has traditionally been released at HHS
headquarters near Capitol Hill, but Thompson unveiled the blueprint Monday at
an inner-city youth center.
Thompson said the move was to highlight the Bush
administration's belief in "grassroots" rather than government
The budget documents are a formal starting point for
congressional budget deliberations, but lawmakers have already made some
important departures. Congress returns to business on April 24 after returning
from its two-week Easter recess.
There is little enthusiasm, for example, for Bush's Medicare
"Immediate Helping Hand" program of state-based prescription drug
assistance for low-income seniors.
Instead, lawmakers are talking about a more comprehensive drug
program, along with structural reforms to the underlying Medicare program.
For Medicare reforms and drug coverage initiatives, Bush had
proposed spending $156 billion over the next 10 years, but the Senate last week
voted for as much as $300 billion.