Azar had asked OMB that morning for $2 billion to buy respirator masks and other supplies for a depleted federal stockpile of emergency medical equipment, according to individuals familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions.The previously unreported argument turned on the request and on the budget official’s accusation that Azar had improperly lobbied Capitol Hill for money for the repository, which Azar denied, the individuals said.The $2 billion request from HHS was cut to $500 million when the White House eventually sent Congress a supplemental budget request weeks later. White House budget officials now say the relief package enacted Friday secured $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile, more money than HHS had asked for. The dispute over funding highlights tensions over a repository straining under demands from state officials. States desperate for materials from the stockpile are encountering a beleaguered system beset by years of underfunding, changing lines of authority, confusion over the allocation of supplies and a lack of transparency from the administration, according to interviews with state and federal officials and public health experts. The stockpile holds masks, drugs, ventilators and other items in secret sites around the country. It


Continue To Full Article