Swine Flu Slops Onto Health Reform

August 7, 2009
by Will Englund
National Journal

President Obama had hoped to have a health care reform bill passed by both
chambers of Congress before next week's trip to Guadalajara, Mexico, where one
of the topics is going to be the other big medical issue facing the country:
swine flu. But now Congress has pushed health care reform back to the fall,
when, as many expect, the flu is likely to stage a resurgence -- and if that
happens, the two are bound to get mixed up together in the political struggle
over U.S. medicine.
An uninsured person who hesitates about seeking help for the flu is in a good
position to infect a lot more people, notes Rich Hamburg of the advocacy group
Trust for America's Health. Just as important as expanded insurance, though, he
believes, is the extra money for public health infrastructure in the reform
bills now in Congress. A public health investment fund of $10 billion to $12
billion a year would improve pandemic planning, pay for stockpiling vaccines
(which increases manufacturing capacity), create more surveillance resources,
and enhance "surge capacity." Significantly, reform would replace emergency
appropriations with a reliable stream of funding. "You could actually hire
people," he says.

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