Funding research to find treatments and cures for major diseases will save the U.S. health care system money, Thompson said. The Human Genome Project has developed the blueprint for a full-court press against HIV/AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, among other illnesses, and President Bush "is committed" to seeing this research reduce the health care tax burden on the American people, he said.
The budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services is being increased significantly for fiscal year 2002, Thompson said. The White House is seeking $468.8 billion for all programs - an 8.9 percent increase over 2001 - and $55.5 billion for discretionary programs - a 5.1 percent increase.
For Medicare beneficiaries, a prescription drug benefit will become a reality this year, Thompson said, as will be increased funding for community-based health care, should Congress approve the plan. The National Institutes of Health are on the receiving end of a large increase in health care tax dollars under the budget proposal.
Bush's commitment to a campaign pledge to continue efforts to double the NIH budget by 2003 over 1998 funding levels is behind this, he said. "It's a bipartisan view in Congress that NIH is on the cusp of breakthroughs," Thompson said.
"The president made a commitment during the campaign to double the HHS budget, but it in no way indicates that he is shifting funding from one scientific community to another." Under the budget plan, NIH would receive $23.1 billion, a 13.5 percent, 2.8 billion-dollar increase over 2001.
"This proposal would be the largest year-to-year dollar increase ever for NIH, and reflects nearly a 70 percent increase over FY 1998," Thompson said. He noted that at least 80 percent of the funds would go out to the extramural research community - some 50,000 researchers affiliated with about 2,000 universities, hospitals and independent research facilities.
The focus is on funding cures for diseases that exact the highest toll on health care expenditures, Thompson said, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and women's health. The funding will go toward 34,000 research project grants.
"I have to ask myself: which would you rather have - a cure for cancer or a new bomb?" Thompson asked.
Under the plan $2.5 billion would be spent on AIDS-related research, an 11.5 percent increase over the FY 2001 level and a 56 percent increase over spending in fiscal 1998.
The budget plan also would spend $93 million for a new anti-bioterrorism research and support program that would emphasize research using the recently decoded human genome to search for antidotes for potential weapons of bioterrorism - and to create a stockpile of vaccines for the most likely bioterrorism agents, Thompson said.
According to the NIH, the budget "reflects the administration's commitment to continue the five-year plan to double the NIH budget by 2003, with FY 2002 representing the fourth installment in this plan."
"We must also renew the promise we made to our seniors in 1965 with the creation of Medicare by providing interim prescription drug coverage to those beneficiaries who need it most under the Immediate Helping Hand program" he said. "It will give temporary financial support they need to protect beneficiaries with limited incomes or very high drug expenses – until full Medicare reform is achieved. "
"The FY 2001 budget begins the process of modernizing Medicare to meet the demands of the 21st century," Thompson said. "The Immediate Helping Hand Program will give immediate financial support to states so that they can provide prescription drug coverage," he said - a total of $46 billion over five years.
The Centers for Disease Control outlay under the Bush proposal would be $4.1 billion for FY 2002, a decrease of $109 million, while the Food and Drug Administration would receive $1.41 million – a net increase of $123 million over last year's budget.
Thompson also outlined the administration's plans for children, those with and without families - with a special emphasis on programs for children living in at-risk homes. The funding includes a $200 million increase to the Safe and Stable Families program to help families in crisis and place children at risk of abuse in a safe, permanent home.
It also would set aside $33 million for a new maternity Group Homes program, where teen-age mothers and their children who cannot live with their own families because of abuse or neglect will be provided with safe, stable and nurturing environments.
A new $64 million program would aim to strengthen the role of fathers in the lives of their children through grants for faith-based and community groups helping unemployed or low-income families on welfare. The proposed budget also includes an 8.6 percent increase for programs to detect birth defects and for early childhood development; a $22 million increase for immunization programs at the Centers for Disease Control; and an increase of 125 million for Head Start programs.
"The president has offered a multi-layered approach to increasing access to health care, including helping states come up with innovative solutions that best serve their residents and offering tax breaks to the uninsured who purchase their own health coverage," Thompson said
"Under the Department of Health and Human Services budget, this effort is highlighted by a $124 million increase for Community Health Centers, which do a wonderful job providing care to people all over America," he said. "Currently, there are 3,200 centers that serve about 11 million patients.
The president plans to increase the number of centers by 1,200 and double the number of patients served by 2006." Thompson also said that Bush wants to decrease the number of uninsured by offering tax credits to encourage people to buy health insurance – $1,000 for singles and $2,000 for families.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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