Trump’s budget would steer $20M to Jack Nicklaus-backed hospital project

The White House’s proposed budget includes funding for a small children’s health program sought by one of President Donald Trump’s golfing buddies: Jack Nicklaus.

Under the administration’s fiscal 2020 funding plan released Monday, HHS would steer $20 million toward a mobile children’s hospital project at Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, named for the legendary golfer.

Nicklaus had lobbied Trump on the golf course in Florida, and he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in Washington, D.C., to request funds, say two individuals with knowledge. Trump personally directed HHS to earmark the funds to help Nicklaus develop mobile children’s hospitals, one individual said.

While HHS has supported the use of mobile hospitals after disasters, like devastating hurricanes that have hit the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, health officials haven’t previously seen the need for specialized mobile hospitals for children.

An HHS spokesperson did not address Nicklaus’ involvement but said the department “will initiate two competitively awarded pediatric disaster care pilot projects that aim to improve care during emergencies by addressing planning and response capabilities that support the specific needs of children.” Nicklaus Children’s Hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Nicklaus, a longtime proponent of children’s health care, has argued that mobile hospitals should be specifically designed to serve children — for instance, by addressing their psychological needs after a disaster. Nicklaus has lobbied some lawmakers, such as Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), about funding the mobile hospital pilot. Nicklaus Children’s Hospital already provides some mobile services, including a mobile dental unit.

Trump and Nicklaus have golfed together at least twice since November, including a round with Tiger Woods last month.

 

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