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VACCINES FROM DIFFERENT SUPPLIERS, WITH VARYING PRICES, MAY BE PURCHASED BY HHS

Executive Summary

VACCINES FROM DIFFERENT SUPPLIERS, WITH VARYING PRICES, MAY BE PURCHASED BY HHS under legislation adopted by the House Energy & Commerce Committee at a May 11 markup of a budget reconciliation measure. The committee accepted an amendment offered by Health Subcommittee Chairman Waxman (D-Calif.) that requires HHS to "contract with each [vaccine] manufacturer" that meets "terms and conditions regarding safety, quality and price." However, the various manufacturers of a given vaccine may sell to the government at "different prices under each of such contracts," the amendment states. At a May 13 markup of budget reconciliation legislation, the House Ways & Means Committee scored the cost of the proposed childhood immunization entitlement program at $500-$550 mil. per year over the next five years. The projection differs substantially from a cost calculation by CBO, which estimated that the program would cost $300 mil. per year. The difference is said to equal the amount already spent by the government on vaccines. The proposed entitlement program is a permanent plan under which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would purchase sufficient childhood vaccines to immunize all children under two years old. The cost of the Clinton Administration's original universal purchase proposal was projected at $1.1 bil. Ways & Means also adopted a provision establishing a "floor stocks tax" for the lapsed vaccine injury compensation program. The tax is designed to help make up for lost excise taxes that were not collected after Dec. 31, 1992, when the program expired, by collecting taxes from public and private vaccine distributors who purchased excess stocks since January to take advantage of excise-free prices. Energy & Commerce rejected in straight 17-27 party-line votes two amendments offered by Rep. Klug (R-Wis.) to limit the proposed vaccine program. One amendment would have excluded from eligibility for free vaccine children who have health insurance but whose plans do not cover immunizations. It is estimated that a majority (53%) of private health insurance plans do not provide coverage for immunizations. Klug also offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute that would have scaled back the vaccine program from the entitlement level by requiring it to be subject to annual authorization and appropriations.
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