- Two key U.S. health agencies have faced steep budget cuts in recent years
- Rep. Chris Van Hollen says those cuts "have made it more difficult" to handle the Ebola outbreak
- Health agency director: "I have to tell you honestly it's been a significant impact on us"
Years of budget cuts have made two key U.S. agencies' efforts to contain the threat of Ebola harder than it should be, Rep. Chris Van Hollen told CNN on Thursday.
The Maryland Democrat pointed to spending cuts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, which are both involved in the response to a Dallas man who this week became the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
"There's no doubt that the deep health care cuts that we've seen have made it more difficult to respond in a rapid and comprehensive way to the Ebola outbreak," Van Hollen said.
"They're doing everything they can with the resources they have now, but the cuts they've seen in past years, they were like eroding the foundation and it clearly meant that they were starting from behind," he said.
The CDC saw its discretionary funding cut by $585 million from 2010 to 2014, while the NIH's budget was slashed by $446 million over the last four years.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, spelled out the impact of the cuts in dire terms during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.
"I have to tell you honestly it's been a significant impact on us," Fauci said. "It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that's responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging."
The CDC also cited the budget cuts in a report earlier this year, saying that annual funding for its public health preparedness and response efforts were $1 billion lower in the 2013 fiscal year than in 2002.
"CDC continues to work with reduced financial resources, which similarly affects state, local, and insular public health departments," the report said. "These losses make it difficult for state and local health departments to continue to expand their preparedness capabilities, instead forcing them to focus on maintaining their current capabilities."