The Ebola and Enterovirus D68 outbreaks show why Congress should increase funding for federal public health outbreak response programs, some House members say.
A group of lawmakers led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is asking leaders of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to convene a hearing immediately on funding for HHS outbreak prevention and response programs.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) included provisions that were supposed to increase spending on HHS outbreak preparedness programs, but, since the law was enacted, tight budgets have cut the purchasing power of the National Institutes of Health medical research budget by 10 percent over the past four years, the lawmakers write in a letter to Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.
Tight budgets have also led to a 16 percent drop in funding for the program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that helps state and local public health officials deal with disease outbreaks, and a 44 percent drop in funding for the HHS program that helps hospitals prepare to contain outbreaks and cope with outbreak-related surges in patient volume, the lawmakers write.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that CDC, NIH and other public health agencies under our jurisdiction have sufficient resources to protect the public health,” the lawmakers say.
The Appropriations Committee has not yet drafted an HHS funding bill for fiscal year 2015, which started Oct. 1, the lawmakers say. HHS is operating under a “continuing resolution” — a measure that gives the department temporary authorization to spend money.
In the past, U.S. insurers have viewed Ebola as a potential source of catastrophic risk for the life insurance industry as well as for the health insurance industry.