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Bipartisan duo battles administration’s cuts to children’s hospitals

President Obama’s proposed budget for FY 2012 would end the $300 million annual appropriation for graduate medical education at children’s hospitals. Children’s hospitals rely on that funding to train their residents because they don’t get funded through Medicare patients like adult hospitals do.

Isakson’s district includes nationally recognized Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a group of three hospitals providing care in more than 30 pediatric specialties such as neurology and gastroenterology. 

The administration has proposed replacing graduate medical education funding for children’s hospitals with “targeted investments to increase the primary care workforce.” But hospital officials argue the administration’s proposal would fall short when it comes to training pediatric specialists and pediatric surgeons, who are already in short supply. 

Lawmakers of both parties agree.

The administration’s alternative funding sources are “far too inadequate,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during an appropriations hearing Wednesday. “I hope you will revisit this issue.” Last week Brown sponsored a letter, signed by 40 senators of both parties, urging the Appropriations health subcommittee to fully fund the program at $330 million through the end of the current fiscal year.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also defended the program at the same hearing.

“I hope we can reject the administration’s proposal to zero out children’s graduate medical education,” Kirk said. “I do not have faith that the current proposal would adequately provide” needed pediatrics training.

Casey vowed last month to drop legislation reauthorizing the program. And 20 Democratic senators earlier this month urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to preserve funding for the program.

In the House, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has said he intends to introduce similar legislation. And Republican appropriator Kay Granger (Texas) has called the program “a wonderful source of training funds for pediatricians and pediatrics.”

The program has always had broad bipartisan support.

When it was reauthorized in 2006, its lead sponsor was the Republican chairman of the health subcommittee at the time, Rep. Nathan Deal (Ga.). It sailed through the House, 421-4, and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referenced Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) instead of Robert Casey (D-Pa.) 

Tags Harry Reid Kathleen Sebelius Kay Granger Mark Kirk Robert Casey Sherrod Brown Tom Carper

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