PAHPA, Don’t Leech: Pandemic Emergency Law Needs Own Fund, Experts Say

Congress is gearing up to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), and experts are saying it should have its own, dedicated fund for public health emergency response—without taking away money from other health programs.

PAHPA (pronounced “papa”) should include a “rapid response” fund similar to the Disaster Relief Fund available to FEMA, public health officials told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week in the second of two hearings on the law’s reauthorization. One panelist suggested a $1 billion appropriation.

A dedicated response fund is a key PAHPA reauthorization change the Infectious Diseases Society of America would like to see, Amanda Jezek, IDSA vice president of public policy and government relations, told Bloomberg Law in an interview.

“It’s important the fund be a real fund with real resources in it and that it not be robbing other public health activities,” Jezek told me. “We feel there’s been an underinvestment in public health overall over the last several years, and so to put in place a fund and basically pay for it by robbing other public health priorities, whatever those might be, we think is not the right approach and ultimately makes us less safe.”

The Zika outbreak showed why such a fund is needed, she said, noting a several-month lag between when the Obama administration requested funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address it and when Congress approved it.

“I think after Zika, when everyone saw how ridiculously long it took to get that funding appropriated, that was what galvanized this movement again,” Jezek told me.

“With infectious diseases, time is of the essence,” she added. “Hours can make the difference between being able to really contain an outbreak and save lives, so a multiple-month delay is just not acceptable.”

IDSA believes reauthorizing PAHPA, enacted in 2006 and first reauthorized in 2013, is a key priority for Congress, Jezek told me.

“We hope that they’ll be able to move quickly in a bipartisan way as they have on this legislation in the past,” she said.

Read my story on the second of the two hearings here.

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