Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Senate Version of Health Preparedness Bill Available

As I mentioned last week, Sen. Burr (R,NC) introduced S 242, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013, and it is now available through the GPO. I have had a quick chance to review the bill and it is not identical to HR 307 that passed in the House in January, but the differences are more in wording than in actual substance.

Public Health Assistance

The one exception to that that I see is found in §201 that amends §319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 247d). The section deals with public health emergencies and both bills add a paragraph that allows for federally funded personnel to assist State and Indian Tribes in responding to such emergencies. The House bill calls this assistance ‘temporary redeployment’ and this bill calls it temporary reassignment. This hardly an earth shaking difference, but it could have some sort of personnel consequences that I am not aware of.

The major difference is buried down in §319(e)(3), “Voluntary Nature of Temporary Reassignment of State and Local Personnel”. This paragraph in the Senate bill makes it clear that the temporary reassignment is voluntary unless otherwise specified by State or Tribal law. There is no such provision in the House bill.

Still, there is not much here to get really worked up about in the difference between the two bills.

Moving Forward

I’m not sure what is going to happen here. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on HR 307 tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy hearing with lots of other things going on, so I don’t expect much time to be spent on HR 307. Having said that, Sen. Burr is a member of the Committee and the language from this bill may be offered as an amendment in the nature of a substitute.

If that amendment is adopted by the Committee (and I haven’t followed these folks closely enough to be able to offer an educated opinion on the likelihood of that happening) then it will be approved by the full Senate in one of those unanimous consent moves that attracts so little attention. Then it will be up to a Conference Committee to hash out the differences.

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