The Senate unanimously passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 on Thursday. The legislation, which still needs House approval, was introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to ensure that the U.S. has programs and policies in place to respond to medical and public health emergencies.
“The American people must be protected if an attack occurs, and this legislation goes a long way towards strengthening existing programs and ensuring we are better prepared and able to respond to threats facing our nation, whether they are naturally occurring like an epidemic or virus or deliberate like a chemical attack,” Burr said in a release
A similar bill was offered by Burr in 2011, but died in the Senate. Since then, the legislation has been amended to let states request voluntary temporary reassignment of state and local public health department personnel to address emergencies. Other provisions of the bill (PDF)
include further development of medical countermeasure activities to address chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, as well as the reauthorization of certain medical and public health programs.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the act to equal $11 billion over the 2014-2018 period. Senate co-sponsors of the bill include Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).