HELP Members Introduce Preparedness Reauthorization Bill

The Senate committee's chairman and ranking member joined three of their colleagues to introduce the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 on Feb. 7.

Citing examples of recent emergencies including the H1N1 pandemic and the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, leaders of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), joined several colleagues to introduce the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 on Feb. 7.

The bill would reauthorize and enhance the National Disaster Medical System, the volunteer Medical Reserve Corps, the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, and the Strategic National Stockpile. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and follow through on plans to modernize national situational awareness and biosurveillance capabilities.

Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the bill "will enhance our nation’s ability to protect American families from the full range of public health emergencies. By increasing coordination among federal, state, and local governments, ensuring that our preparedness capabilities take into account the needs of at-risk individuals, investing in research and medical countermeasure development, and strengthening our planning efforts, we can be better prepared to face threats to public health."

He and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the bill takes into account lessons learned since the passage of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, which encouraged the federal government to partner with state and local government agencies and strengthened preparedness and response capabilities. "The threats facing our nation are serious and we must address them accordingly," Burr said. "The American people expect us to do all that we can to prevent an attack and, if one should occur, be fully prepared to respond, including having safe and effective medical countermeasures readily available. While key progress has been made since PAHPA was signed into law, more work remains to be done. This legislation redoubles our efforts to protect the American people by strengthening our existing programs and making targeted improvements in areas in which we know we must do better, including ensuring that our nation's medical countermeasure enterprise reflects and is prepared to respond to modern-day threats."

Three other HELP members joined Burr and Harkin in introducing the bill -– Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Sen. Robert P. Casey, D-Pa.; and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee's ranking member.

"With a range of public health emergencies over the past five years –- the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic flu, the Fukushima disaster, and an array of natural disasters -- our public health system has proven more capable than it was a decade ago. However, these disasters have also taught us that we must do more to improve our public health system," Casey said.

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