Hurricanes and Health Care

As we watch some of our fellow citizens begin to recover from Katrina, and watch others get ready for or get out of the way of Rita, our national news seems to be all hurricanes, all the time.

Surely there are health aspects of these stories ? the public health implications of polluted water, the damage to hospitals and other health care institutions, and the psychological aspects of the trauma, among them.

But there is one additional health aspect to these stories ? the vast amount we will spend as a nation on relief and recovery for hurricane victims and communities, will, in part, be taken from other health programs.

Already there is talk about saving money by postponing the new Medicare drug benefit, and by an across-the-board reduction in most descretionary spending, which would thereby include a cut in the nation's health research and public health programs, for example. And the prospect of all this unbudgeted and unplanned spending will delay yet further the time when we will come to grips with the fact that millions of our fellow citizens are without adequate health care because they are not properly insured.

So, as important as it is to bind up the nation's wounds caused by the storms, we ought to recognize that we are again putting off dealing with some of our other pressing health problems.

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