Public Health and Medical Emergency Management: Issues in the 112th Congress [February 18, 2011]   [open pdf - 296KB]

"Key recent events--the 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 influenza ('flu') pandemic, among others--sharpened congressional interest in the nation's ability to respond to health threats. For the response to health emergencies, most authority resides with state and local governments, and most capacity resides in the private sector. The federal government plays a key role, however, providing numerous forms of assistance for planning and preparedness, as well as for response and recovery. Previous Congresses passed a number of laws intended to establish clear federal leadership roles and responsibilities and effective organizational structures, in the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) in particular. Nonetheless, challenges persist in coordinating federal preparedness and response efforts. From FY2002 through FY2010, Congress provided about $11.4 billion in grants to states and territories to strengthen public health and medical system capacity in preparedness for health threats. However, depending on the incident, dedicated funding for the actual response to these threats may or may not be available. For example, it is not clear that infectious disease incidents (such as bioterrorism or a flu pandemic) would qualify for major disaster assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act). Also, although the HHS Secretary has authority for a Public Health Emergency Fund, Congress has not appropriated monies to the fund for many years. Finally, there is no federal assistance program designed purposefully to cover uncompensated or uninsured health care costs for disaster victims."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41646
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