Via American Public Health Association and AMWA Advocacy Committee:
Despite tremendous improvements in the 20th century, the U.S. is still far from being the healthiest nation. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, we spend far more on health care than any other high-income country, but our lives are shorter and less healthy.
We must treat those who are sick and injured. But to become a healthier nation, we must also invest in prevention and wellness to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place. The Prevention and Public Health Fund — a key part of the Affordable Care Act — supports programs doing just that.
Unfortunately, the Senate is soon expected to vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, legislation that would repeal major portions of the ACA including the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Senate health care bill would result in 22 million people losing access to affordable health insurance coverage by 2026. The bill would provide smaller premium subsidies for health insurance plans with less generous benefits and would also likely result in higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs to consumers. The bill would allow states to opt-out of requiring health plans to cover 10 essential health benefits such as maternity care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services and prescription drug coverage. The bill would also allow insurers to charge older adults premiums five times higher than younger enrollees. The bill would phase out the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, convert the Medicaid program to a per capita amount or block grant and lead to even deeper cuts in Medicaid funding starting in 2025 compared to the House-passed bill. Additionally, the bill would eliminate Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for one year, and would subsequently lead to less access to care, more unintended births and increased spending for the Medicaid program.
The prevention fund — our nation’s largest single investment in prevention — has provided more than $6 billion since 2010 to support a variety of public health activities in every state. This includes initiatives that detect and respond to infectious disease threats, prevent lead poisoning, fight obesity, curb tobacco use and protect kids by ensuring proper immunization.
For instance, initiatives financed through the fund include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tips from Former Smokers campaign, which has encouraged about 104,000 Americans to quit smoking for good and prevented over 17,000 premature deaths caused by tobacco use. And the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant has helped states reach healthy milestones, including reducing prescription drug abuse in Arkansas, preventing long-term disability from stroke in Georgia, stopping a foodborne outbreak from spreading in Missouri and reducing teen drinking in Wisconsin.
Around the country, the fund is already having a profound impact on the physical and economic health of communities across the country, particularly those struggling with rising rates of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, by supporting programs that improve American diets, increase physical activity and reduce tobacco use. The fund is helping to create healthier communities, schools, workplaces and homes by making healthy living easier.
All of this progress, however, is at risk if Congress continues to move forward with legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and with it the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Repealing the prevention fund without providing a corresponding increase would result in a major loss of funding for core public health programs. The fund makes up more than 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual budget and is integral to helping states keep communities healthy and safe. Eliminating the fund would make it extremely difficult for our local health departments to prevent disease and injuries.
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has consistently fought for improved health care measures and preventative care. AMWA understands the role that all physicians have in maintain the health of a community and that it is a combined effort. Our health care providers, legislators, and community each play a pivotal role in the health care success of our nation.
The message to Representatives and Senators is clear: Maintain the funding made possible by the Prevention and Public Health Fund and build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act so we can make the U.S. the healthiest nation by investing in prevention and well-being and restraining the growth of health care costs as the ACA originally intended.