Senate Health Bill Holds Onto Grants For Healthier Transportation

Back in June, when the Senate was in the early stages of its marathon health care reform debate, several Republicans blasted the  proposed legislation for including a grant program aimed at encouraging construction of local infrastructure to promote healthier movement.

kids.jpgThe new Senate health bill held onto a billion-dollar grant program to promote walking to school, among other practices. (Photo: Ctr. for Neighborhood Tech.)
Citing the possibility of more paved sidewalks, jungle gyms, and bike paths, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) lamented: "[H]ow can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?"

Despite loud protestations from the GOP and conservative think tanks about the grants, dubbed "Community Transformation" aid, it has survived intact in the final health reform bill that Democratic leaders will call up for a crucial test vote tomorrow.

The final Senate legislation opens the Community Transformation awards to non-profit groups as well as state and local governments. Proposals to promote increased physical exercise and "the infrastructure to support active living" would be eligible for funding, and grant recipients would be required to measure the resulting local health benefits.

The amount of money set aside for the program is not specified in the Senate bill. The House health bill limited annual funding to $1.6 billion, while the upper chamber of Congress names Community Transformation grants as one eligible use for a "prevention and public health fund" that would receive $5 billion by the year 2015.

No matter how you slice it, however, the Senate has recognized the maxim that transportation reform is health reform.