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September 22, 2014

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Committee ups funding for whooping cough prevention

A budget subcommittee has agreed to add $1 million over the next two years for vaccines for newborns and their families to prevent an outbreak of whooping cough.

And more money would be pumped into AIDS treatment and tobacco prevention programs, under the budgets approved Friday by the Senate-Assembly subcommittee.

The state Health Division says pertussis, or as commonly called “whooping cough,” is especially dangerous to babies under the age of 1 and half of these newborns are hospitalized.

This extra annual $500,000 in state funds, as recommended by Gov. Brian Sandoval, would allow the purchase of 18,600 doses of vaccine in addition to the 21,000 doses bought with federal funds.

In addition to the babies, this “would allow for every mother and father and close family members to be offered the opportunity to receive a vaccine at one of Nevada’s 19 birthing hospitals and 30 obstetric providers,” said the legislative budget subcommittee in its spending report.

The subcommittee also voted to redirect some federal drug rebate money to the state to pay for “wrap around” services for persons with HIV/AIDS. This estimated $3 million in additional funds would help individuals pay health insurance costs or the co-pays, provide housing support, counseling and testing.

Under the federal sequestration of money, the health division estimates it could lose up to $928,000 a year in federal support for this program.

Financial consultants to the subcommittee said the federal sequester could impact dozens of state programs but the amount is not known yet.

The subcommittee also accepted the recommendation of the governor to redirect federal rebates of $1 million a year to curb cigarette smoking. The money would go to the Tobacco Users Helpline, county health districts and nonprofit organizations.

While the effort is to reduce tobacco use, the financial experts in the Legislature are predicting an increase in taxes in the next two fiscal years from the sale of cigarettes.

The cigarette tax brought in $82.9 million in fiscal 2012 and the analysts expect it to yield an additional $1.5 million next year and $1.6 million in fiscal 2015.

The subcommittee agreed to allow the health division to increase the fee for metabolic screening of a newborn from the current $71 to $83 to cover a shortfall in the program.

The division will have to hold hearings on regulations to raise the fee, which is included in the hospital bill and then sent to the state.

The money, combined with federal funds provides pre- and post-natal care, education and treatment of children with metabolic disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome and other abnormalities.

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