‘NO SURGE PLAN’: THE PANDEMIC FUNDING THAT COULD HAVE BEEN — Public health experts trooped to Capitol Hill in 2018 and 2019 to ask Congress to invest hundreds of millions of additional dollars in the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, testifying that many of the programs created after 9/11 to ready the nation’s health system for any kind of disaster had since been stripped down to dangerously low levels, Alice Miranda Ollstein writes.
The warnings were not heeded. Rather than appropriate the advised $820 million-plus for public health grants and $470 million-plus for hospital preparedness that fell under the 2019 pandemic act, Congress only agreed to spend about $675 million and $275 million, respectively.
Lawmakers, public health experts and Capitol Hill staff told Alice it’s well in keeping with Congress’ pattern of chipping away at domestic spending when times are good and only loosening the purse strings once a crisis is underway.
“We’ve always believed BARDA was underfunded for its mission,” Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s vice president for infectious diseases and diagnostics policy, told Prescription PULSE. “It’s extremely difficult to suddenly mobilize in the middle of a moving target.”
The biomedical developments department and the larger unit under the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response were “very aware” that there was a need for new kinds of protective equipment and different treatment for infectious diseases, Arthur said. But funding remained a constraint.
“These products are partly an insurance policy, but they’re also part of our rapidity of response and then our subsequent recovery,” she said.
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