By Carolyn Mullen, MS
Associate Director, Government Affairs, AMCHP
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided a historic opportunity to invest in prevention and public health through the creation of a Prevention and Public Health Fund (Fund). The Fund provides mandatory funding for programs authorized by the Public Health Service Act for prevention, wellness, and public health activities to reduce and combat preventable injury and disease.
Unfortunately, this investment continues to be under attack by both the administration and Congress. The very nature of this fund and its association with the ACA make it a favorite target for some members of Congress.
Significantly, in February, Congress approved legislation to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and Medicare physician rate provisions. In order to pay for a portion of this package, Congress slashed $6 billion from the Fund, to be spread over 10 years.
Additionally, the administration offered cutting the Fund to achieve some budget savings in President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal. With this in mind, the future of the Fund is in peril. Every public health official, academic and advocate should care a great deal about the future of the Prevention and Public Health Fund because not only will it be used to fund innovative approaches to public health but, due to tight budget caps, the Fund is currently being used to back fill cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies.
AMCHP continues to work with a broad coalition comprised of 700 supporters to meet with members of Congress about the Fund, as well as write and sign on to letters urging Congress and the administration to oppose any effort to reduce, eliminate or divert funding from this important investment. In February, our efforts were recognized by the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA), during a statement on the floor of the Senate when he mentioned AMCHP as one of the supporters of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
In sum, the new sustained mandatory funding stream afforded via the Fund will ensure timely intervention boosting federal and state capacity today, and will result in better health and cost savings in both the short and long term. However, the fight to save the Fund and educate policymakers continues. This is why two years after ACA was signed into law, AMCHP looks forward to working with you and our many partners to ensure Congress sustains support for the Fund in the near future and beyond.