President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget proposal includes a 5.8% increase, or $14.1 billion, in Medicare spending and a 12% increase, or $20 billion, in Medicaid spending. That would bring total federal outlays for Medicare and Medicaid to about $439 billion. The budget proposal also contains $169 million in new funding for community health centers, to double their capacity, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. Thompson declined to break down how the new Medicare money would be divided among a prescription drug benefit, provider payments and other outlays. "The information I'd give you today might not be accurate," Thompson said during a media briefing. He added that details of Bush's Medicare reform package would be made public "very soon." In Bush's budget proposal, Medicare inpatient spending would grow by 5.6% to $115.2 billion in 2004, but that could change under the president's reform plan. Bioterrorism defense spending would grow by $90 million in 2004; however, funding for hospital preparedness would stay at the 2003 level of $518 million. Congress is not expected to take up the president's 2004 budget proposal until completing a 2003 budget, now awaiting a House-Senate conference committee. -- by Jeff Tieman
Medicaid, health centers winners in budget plan
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