Senate Approves ‘Minibus’ Package of Health Bills
The Senate on Oct. 26 passed a $919.5 million "minibus" compilation (S. 2731) of several health bills that would bolster defenses against bioterrorism, "modernize federal disease laboratories" and place heart defibrillators in all federal buildings. The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent, and the House is expected to vote on it today. The package allocates a majority of the funding, $540 million, to "strengthen" the United States' ability to respond to a biological terrorist attack. It also provides grant money to encourage the study of "how well public health agencies respond to disease outbreaks," coordinates the actions of federal agencies, and calls for the NIH and CDC to develop biological weapon vaccines. The health package also authorizes HHS "to make recommendations" on placing heart defibrillators in federal building and allocates $180 million to the CDC for the modernization of its laboratories. In addition, the package instructs "the CDC to institute a prostate screening program," expands research of lupus and Alzheimer's and calls for the NIH to research secually transmitted disease treatments (Carter, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/27). Separately, the Senate in a 94-0 vote passed the Older Americans Act (S. 1536), which extends and creates senior services. The legislation calls for a five-year extension of job training, pension counseling and the Meals-on-Wheels program for the elderly. It also creates "a new family caregiver program to help family members who care for frail older family members." In addition, the Senate approved a measure (S. 3067) yesterday intended to protect health care workers from being stuck with used needles. The bill, passed by the House earlier this month (H.R. 5178), would mandate that "hospitals and health care facilities ... consider using safer medical devices to reduce the number of needle-related injuries" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.