Terrorism Blows Health Care off Political Agenda. (from Medicare Reform to Bioterror)

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The attacs of Sept. 11 have pushed issues such as stem cell research, Medicare prescription drug benefits, and health care for the uninsured out of the congressional limelight, Dean Rosen said at a meeting sponsored by the American Health Lawyers Association.

"Before Sept. 11, there was a tremendous health agenda really front and center," said Mr. Rosen, who is minority staff director of the subcommittee on public health of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "But the issues now on our agenda--bioterrorism, defense, and weapons of mass destruction--have changed the focus [of Congress] pretty dramatically"

Bioterrorism, in particular, had really gone "to the bottom of my pile" before the attacs. "All of a sudden, that's what I'm spending most of my time on." Mr. Rosen said his office is woring with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is subcommittee chairman, to pass a $1.3 billion measure that would help state and local authorities prepare to respond to bioterrorist attacs.

Also on the front burner is providing health insurance to those who lost it as a result of the tragedy either through the death of a spouse or parent or because they are now unemployed. Partisan differences have already cropped up on how to accomplish this.

Democrats hope to open up public health plans, such as the State Children's Health Insurance Program, to those affected by the tragedy, while Republicans prefer to extend tax credits or low-interest loans to help individuals purchase their own coverage, Mr. Rosen said at the meeting, also sponsored by the Health Care Compliance Association. …


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