The Latest Updates on The Prevention and Public Health Fund
By Nar Ramkissoon
The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as it is more commonly known, has many features that have a major impact on local health departments.
Perhaps none more so than the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Fund has been a major source of debate amongst the two parties in Washington, with a whirlwind of rhetoric floating around and near constant updates to the Fund being voted on.
As with most issues up for debate in Washington today, the Prevention and Public Health Fund has elicited passionate and disparate thoughts from both parties. As an Obama-led initiative, Democrats as a whole are in favor of keeping it as is, while Republicans are working to chip away from the Fund.
It’s vital that local health departments stay on top of the changes being proposed and made to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The amount of funding at stake is profound, as is the potential the funding has for improving communities nationwide.
When it was first enacted, the Prevention and Public Health Fund set aside $15 billion in funding to public health from 2010 to 2021, and then $2 billion a year in perpetuity after that. In February of 2012 funding was lowered by more than $6 billion from 2013 to 2021 (see the diagram below).
Just a month ago, it was also announced that half of 2013’s funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund would be siphoned away from local health departments to instead help build up the Federal health Exchange program. This month’s attempts to reform the program propose further cuts in excess of $8 billion.
Over the past two years The Prevention and Public Health Fund has been responsible for handing out $290 million in grants to local health departments to help spread awareness about the preventable diseases harming Americans most: smoking-related illnesses and obesity. The funding has helped spread initiatives to promote active lifestyles, because a healthy country is a more productive country.
Republicans are working to re-brand the Prevention and Public Health Fund as nothing more than a slush fund that will predominantly be used for lobbying. There is a fear amongst republicans that since The Department of Health and Human Services (who runs the Fund) doesn’t need congressional approval for how the money is dispersed, the American taxpayers will end up funding a $2 billion a year lobbying system for President Obama.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has passed 37 separate bills to repeal parts or all of the Affordable Care Act. All were promptly voted down by the Democrat-led Senate.
As you can see, the Prevention and Public Health Fund is under constant attack, with cuts to it seeming all but inevitable. While it’s unlikely the Prevention and Public Health Fund will completely disappear, it’s vital that local health departments continue to improve their billing efficiency and maximize all revenue avenues to provide their communities with the highest level of care.
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