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Bush Health Budget: FDA Gets More, CDC Gets Less.

Bush Health Budget
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Thompson said the move was to highlight the Bush administration's belief in "grassroots" rather than government solutions.

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.

Bush would also provide tax credits to encourage the purchase of private health insurance, but the Senate last week voted its support for $28 billion in additional spending for the uninsured.

And there is likely to be congressional pressure to increase spending elsewhere; last week, the Senate voted to allow greater increases in spending in a variety of domestic programs.

Meanwhile, Thompson Monday addressed two nonbudgetary health matters that have been of keen national interest.

  • He termed it "doubtful" that he will reverse the Clinton administration's decision not to permit reimportation of pharmaceuticals. Legislation was enacted last year permitting exported drugs to be brought back into the country, but HHS would have to certify that the reimportation program was safe for Americans before it could begin. Former HHS secretary Donna Shalala blocked this measure on the grounds that the government could not guarantee the drugs' safety or cost.
  • He said a "short delay" is likely a decision on how to proceed on medical privacy rules. April 14 is supposed to be the implementation deadline for first-ever national standards to assure the confidentiality of individual health records. But Thompson said that he has been flooded by public comments and would need additional time to digest the information. The Clinton administration originally issued the rules, but Thompson is expected to loosen them to be less burdensome on the healthcare industry.

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