The US Health Budget in Brief

22 February 2010 (Last Updated February 22nd, 2010 18:30)

Barack Obama's agenda for the US health system will have a massive impact on the fiscal 2011 budget. We detail what the US president is proposing.

The US Health Budget in Brief

Barack Obama's election pledge was to bring universal healthcare to the American masses and, as president, he has overcome many obstacles towards this, against fierce opposition.

With an acknowledgement that he may have to accept a compromised version that the Senate and House will agree on, he has set out his budget plans for fiscal 2011.

His primary focus has been providing more security and stability to those with health insurance, coverage for those without and lowering the cost burden to the federal government, according to whitehouse.gov.

To lay the foundation for reform, Obama has pledged:

• To accelerate biomedical research, with a focus on the development of genomics, and science to support healthcare reform and translational research. Within this focus, more than $6bn has been dedicated to expand research into cancer and $143m is allocated to developing research into autism spectrum disorders. This area of focus will see money dispersed between about 300,000 scientists across the country.

"Reducing fraud, waste and abuse is an important part of restraining spending growth and providing quality service delivery to beneficiaries."
  • A massive $2.5bn for health centres to provide affordable primary and preventative care to the underserved. Given Obama's work in 2009 to make universal healthcare a reality, the size of this commitment is no surprise. In practice, it will mean the establishment of 25 new health centres and add to the two million people given federal healthcare plans through the 2009 stimulus funding.

  • Along the same theme of expanding access, Obama has allocated $4.4bn for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to improve healthcare provision to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The IHS serves about 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives at 600 facilities and the money is dedicated to improving its federal, tribal and urban programmes.

  • To bring down the cost of treatment by funding research into alternative therapies. For 2011 the Obama administration has dedicated $286m to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to build on work that has progressed over the past few years.

  • A commitment to digitalising the healthcare sector. For this, Obama has awarded $110m to support IT efforts that aim to create a more effective and efficient system. This technology focus began in earnest in 2009 with many grants awarded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act targeted at streamlining the cumbersome legacy systems in place today.

  • To continue strengthening the back office of the sector by spending $250m in additional resources to cut fraud and abuse of the system. "Reducing fraud, waste and abuse is an important part of restraining spending growth and providing quality service delivery to beneficiaries," a statement from the White House on the budget says.

  • "Obama's pledge was to bring universal healthcare to the American masses."
  • To combat child obesity by promoting healthy meals through a $1bn investment programme. According to White House figures, nearly a third of children in the US are overweight or obese. Each year this costs the healthcare system $150bn or almost 10% of medical spending. This section of the budget, as part of the reauthorisation of the school meals programme, is aimed at giving children access to healthy food.

  • To accelerate stem cell research. To do this, the NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research has approved 40 stem cell lines for path-breaking research, almost double the number of lines previously available.