Entries in Department of Health and Human Services (2)


GAO Report: HIV Fund Oversight Visits More Frequent to Sunny Locales

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Health and Human Services workers responsible for overseeing a program that administers grants to programs that help impoverished HIV/AIDS patients occasionally take trips to ensure the money is being spent effectively.

But an investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that these officers from Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of HHS, have taken almost 20 trips to such sunny destinations as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, while neglecting places where the disease has hit the hardest.

Under the Ryan White Care Act, enacted in 1990, the federal government gives out about $2 billion a year in grants to programs that provide medical care to low-income HIV/AIDS patients.

The U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, receives $1 million annually in Ryan White Care funds, but HRSA program officers made six visits there from 2008 to 2011, and 12 visits to Puerto Rico, which received $31 million in funds.

Less exotic locations received much less attention, according to the GAO report.  HRSA officers visited New Jersey, which received $47 million in Ryan White Care grants, only once from 2008 to 2011.  And Maryland, which received $40 million, wasn’t visited a single time.
No other location in the United States received as many oversight visits as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The GAO report criticized the Department of Health and Human Services for ”lack of oversight” when it came to selecting site visits and overseeing grants made under the Ryan White Care Act.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who asked the GAO to look into the issue, had a harsher assessment.

“It is troubling that a few exotic locations with little grant funding saw far more visits than more mundane locations that received significant funding,” Coburn, who is also an M.D., wrote in a statement.

Coburn demanded that the agency “should be setting travel priorities based on dollars, risk and need, not any other factors.”

When contacted about the report, Martin Kramer, director of communications at the Health Resources and Services Administration, issued the following statement:

“The Ryan White program is a valuable program that provides care, treatment and life-saving medications to more than 500,000 men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS across the U.S.  That’s why HRSA is committed to improving and strengthening the Ryan White Program and has developed a detailed action plan to address the recommendations in the GAO report.  In fact, prior to the GAO report, HRSA was already making improvements to strengthen the program.”

The agency justified the multiple trips by pointing out that Puerto Rico’s HIV rate is nearly twice that of other parts of the U.S., and the death rate is three times higher.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Rescinds Most of Bush-Era Health Care Rule

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Earlier this month, the Obama administration rescinded most of the 2008 federal regulation allowing health care workers to refuse to provide medical care they object to on moral or religious grounds.

The Obama administration is retaining pre-existing conscience statutes; for instance, those allowing health care workers to refuse “to perform or assist in a sterilization procedure or an abortion, if it would be contrary to the individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Catholic Hospitals retain the same protections they have had for decades.

But President Obama’s administration partially rescinded a broader Bush-era regulation issued on December 19, 2008.

In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule entitled “Ensuring that Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices in Violation of Federal Law.” The Bush administration said the new rule was necessary to “ensure compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements embodied in the federal health care provider conscience protection statutes” and would broaden definitions included in pre-existing conscience clauses -- in terms of health care providers and activities they find objectionable.

The new rule was interpreted as possibly allowing pharmacists to not provide prescriptions for birth control pills or emergency contraception, permitting physicians to refuse to see gay AIDS patients or provide fertility treatment to a lesbian, providing an out for an ambulance driver or EMT who didn’t want to transport a woman who wanted to obtain an abortion.

On Feb. 18 the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would rescind the 2008 rule “based on concerns expressed that it had the potential to negatively impact patient access to contraception and certain other medical services without a basis in federal conscience protection statutes.”

The pre-existing conscience laws remain, and the Obama administration is also retaining provisions in the Bush-era rule that establish a formal enforcement process for federal conscience laws.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio