Eye on Washington

March 1, 2005

Children and the federal budget, FDA woes, and a call to standardize CAM

The fun has begun as both houses of Congress take a fine-tooth comb to President George W. Bush's budget proposals submitted last month. As commentators at both ends of the political spectrum were quick to point out, the budget proposed for 2006 had something objectionable to everyone: to agricultural states, which are threatened with a loss of farm subsidies; to deficit hawks, who are dumbfounded by finding out that the new Medicare drug benefit will cost almost twice as much as they thought it would; to advocates for children, facing cutbacks in funding for food stamps, Medicaid, housing, and home heating allowances, as well as tighter eligibility requirements for a wide range of family-friendly programs; to researchers, looking at funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will not keep pace with inflation; and to public health workers, facing funding cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Whew!

For the remainder of the session, advocates for every ox that the president's budget threatens to gore will vie for the attention of key representatives, trying to win back at least some part of what the budget proposes to take away. For children's advocates, the stakes are high. A coalition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, and the National Association of Children's Hospitals called the situation "an important crossroads in the health and well-being of our children," and pledged to lobby Congress to adequately fund Medicaid, preserve children's entitlement to Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT), and provide timely access to quality benefits and services.

While the budgetary drama plays out, federal agencies continue to play their important role: