A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Thursday on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted a discussion on Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding levels. The lead agency responding to the Ebola crisis is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is funded through the HHS budget. The chairman of the House panel questioned whether enough money was available for CDC programs designed to prepare for a pandemic health crisis. CQ HealthBeat’s Kerry Young reported that a senior GOP appropriator, also attending the hearing, inquired about the need to shift current HHS funding toward toward addressing the CDC response to the Ebola crisis.
However, the HHS budget is already subject to separate transfers to cover new expenses from an influx of migrant children at the border with Mexico. A HHS agency, the Administration for Children and Families, is responsible for housing and care for the migrant children. The administration requested emergency program funding for HHS border relief efforts, but Congress was unable to reach an agreement on supplemental spending prior to the August congressional recess.
Neither the House nor Senate has passed a fiscal 2015 spending bill for HHS, whose appropriations are frequently stymied by disputes over additional spending for the implementation of the 2010 health care law. When Congress returns in September, appropriators could offer additional HHS pandemic response funding in separate planned action on a stopgap continuing spending resolution which would extend funding for all federal agencies past the Oct. 1 start of the new federal fiscal year.