Bush budget cuts health, community programs

February 1, 2008 1:33:43 PM PST
President Bush's $3 trillion budget for next year slashes mental health funding and rural health care and freezes spending on medical research, among the cuts outlined in budget documents obtained by The Associated Press. The budget for the Department of Health and Human Services would be reduced by almost 3 percent under the Bush budget plan to be released Monday. The $2 billion in HHS cuts are about double the size of the reductions Bush sought last year; the Democrats controlling Congress rejected them.

Congress is ultimately likely to reject the cuts again, but the White House played a tough hand in last year's budget battle and the gulf between the two could mean gridlock that would tie up the agency's budget until Bush's successor takes office. The cuts would hit HHS programs funded by Congress each year.

These reductions would be in addition to almost $200 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over the next five years that administration officials acknowledge are in Bush's budget.

Bush would eliminate a $302 million program that gives grants to children's hospitals to subsidize medical education. A $300 million program for public health improvement projects would be eliminated, while grants to improve health care in rural areas would be cut by 87 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control's budget would face a 7 percent reduction of $433 million. The budget for a program to treat and monitor the health of first responders and others exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center after the Sept 11 attacks would be cut by 77 percent, from $108 million this year to $25 million in 2009. An account for the preparedness, detection and control of infectious diseases would undergo an 18 percent cut.

The National Institutes of Health, which funds health research grants, would see its budget frozen at $29.5 billion.

A program providing grants to help mental health and substance abuse providers update their treatment programs would be cut almost in half. Bush also would eliminate a new $49 million program to help states provide health insurance to people who are ailing and cannot obtain health insurance in the commercial market.

There are a few increases, however. The Food and Drug Administration would receive a 6 percent boost to $2.4 billion to ramp up food and drug safety efforts. Head Start would receive a 2 percent increase to $7 billion. Abstinence education programs popular with social conservatives would get a 25 percent increase to $137 million.

A program to help states promote adoptions would see its budget nearly quadruple, to $15 million.

At the same time, a popular program that provides heating subsidies to the poor would be cut by $570 million, to $2 billion.

As expected, the budget would eliminate the $654 million Community Services Block Grant program, which provides seed money for community action agencies that help the poor. That cut was proposed last year, but Congress rejected it on a bipartisan basis.