The Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended $227 million for research and treatment of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in fiscal 1986, a huge increase over the fiscal 1985 level of about $100 million and more than the $196 million than the House has approved.
The Senate version of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill includes more than $205 million for AIDS research by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, plus $16 million added by Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) for model AIDS treatment programs in four parts of the country with large numbers of AIDS victims. (These are expected to be New York, California and two others.) The remaining funds, $6.6 million for Food and Drug Administration research, are included in the Agriculture Department's appropriations bill.
For all types of NIH biomedical research, the Senate bill would provide 6,000 new and competing grants in fiscal 1986. The House Appropriations Committee did not estimate the number of grants its bill would fund, but it is expected to be in same range as the Senate measure, possibly 100 or so higher.
THE COST OF COMPUTERS . . . The General Accounting Office says the cost of the Social Security Administration's plan to improve its creaky computer system has risen to an estimated $863 million, with completion scheduled in 1989. Originally, the plan was to have cost $500 million and be completed by 1987.
The GAO, in a report to the Senate, said the agency has made "significant progress" in improving its hardware, but "insufficient progress in improving its software" and creating the capacity to respond rapidly to program changes legislated by Congress. The GAO also said it has improved its security against fraud, but still remains vulnerable to abusive practices, such as employes who create fictitious identities and file claims for them, or issue checks to themselves.
LOOKING AT WELFARE . . . Attorney General Edwin Meese III, chairman of the president's Domestic Policy Council, has created a working group to study possible changes in federal programs for low-income people. In a directive to certain officials, Meese wrote that some programs "provide unneeded benefits to many people who are not poor, reduce incentives for work and self-reliance, and discourage strong family and community ties."
The group's purpose, he said, is to "analyze the array of federal low-income assistance programs as a system and to identify ways of restructuring this system to provide greater incentives and opportunities for self-reliance, self and community support, and the formation and maintenance of productive, intact families, and thus to reduce the long-range need for public assistance."
The names of the group's members have not been made public.
EXPANDING MEDICAID . . . The Intergovernmental Health Policy Project at George Washington University reports that in the first six months of 1985, 19 states expanded their Medicaid eligibility to new groups of low-income persons and 13 improved the benefits provided. Two states reduced benefits.
PAYING UP . . . In a survey of 65 major private health insurance companies that sell group health policies, the Health Insurance Association of America found that all pay for cornea and bone marrow transplants, 63 pay for kidney and skin transplants, 55 for heart, 52 for liver, 45 for heart-lung and 37 for pancreas transplants.
By comparison, the Medicare program for elderly Americans pays for cornea, bone marrow and kidney transplants and skin grafts, but not for heart, heart-lung or pancreas transplants, according to HHS officials. Medicaid coverage is determined by each state; most pay for cornea transplants, 41 states and the District of Columbia pay for bone marrow transplants, 49 and the District support kidney transplants, 24 and the Distict cover heart transplants, 32 and the District pay for liver transplants, 13 and the District cover heart-lung transplants, and four, pancreas transplants.
NURSING HOME SURVEY . . . The National Center for Health Statistics is beginning a survey of the nation's 18,000 nursing homes, the first since 1977. Final results, using a sample of 1,200 homes, will be available in 1987.
HOSPITALS AND TAXES . . . The American Hospital Association says repealing the federal tax exemption on interest received from bonds issued to help finance nonprofit hospitals, as proposed in President Reagan's tax overhaul plan, could seriously threaten their ability to finance new construction and equipment.
In 1984, nonprofit hospitals, which represent more than 80 percent of the nation's 6,000 hospitals, relied on tax-exempt bonds to finance three-fourths of their capital needs. "In 1984, $10.23 billion in hospital tax-exempt bonds were issued, representing 10 percent of the market," the association said.