By Mary Caffrey
Most of the early attention to the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) has focused on its potential effects on the individual market. But experts are now pointing to a cut of $931 million to the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which may not be well-known to the average consumer but, in the words of one House member, is “more important to the average American than … the Defense Department.”
US Representative Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, offered that assessment to STAT while noting that the typical citizen was more likely to be exposed to a pandemic than a terrorist attack. Cole oversees CDC’s budget, and when interviewed this week was not yet sure what to do about the proposed cut contained within AHCA.
Some of his fellow Republicans call the prevention dollars, which are 12% of CDC’s budget, a “slush fund” that has been misspent on things like Zumba classes. They propose a new fund that offers flexibility to the states.
Chrissie Juliano of the Big Cities Health Coalition, writing in Health Affairs, warns the CDC cut scheduled to be axed from core health programs, that cover everything from tracking diseases, providing immunizations, and preventing lead poisoning.
The CDC Prevention Fund, Juliano and others note, was one of several pieces of the Affordable Care Act designed to take the nation’s health system out of the reactive posture and toward a model of care that caught problems before they got out of hand. The CDC cuts affect the nation’s ability to battle the most common chronic conditions—heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and asthma. They set back scientists’ efforts to fight the Zika virus or to help the children in Flint, Michigan.
As Juliano writes, funds in prevention are dollars well spent, with returns on investment of $17 to $221, yielding savings of $181 million to $269 million. She wrote, “Even without considering the human cost, this investment makes good fiscal sense.” Read more