Advocates Protest Debt Panel’s Proposed Cuts to Public Health Fund
On Thursday, Trust for America's Health announced that it has collected signatures from more than 700 public health groups opposing $8 billion in cuts to the federal health reform law's Prevention and Public Health Fund proposed by Democrats on the debt panel, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/10).
A provision in the federal health reform law provides $15 billion over 10 years for the fund, which supplies grants for preventive care and public health issues. Republicans have criticized the fund because they say it permits HHS to use the funding for questionable purposes (California Healthline, 10/13).
Earlier this week, Democrats offered a new plan that would reduce the federal deficit by $2.3 trillion over 10 years, in part by cutting about $400 billion from Medicare and Medicaid. The proposal is smaller than an earlier by Democrats, which aimed to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion (California Healthline, 11/10).
TFAH and 704 signatories in a letter to the debt panel said that they were "disappointed" that certain Democrats favor cutting the prevention fund, "which would result in a 25% reduction in this investment by [fiscal year] 2015, severely impacting our efforts to curb chronic disease."
The letter adds, "We urge you to maintain our investment in the fund and produce a final deficit reduction plan that recognizes the importance of prevention."
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also has raised concerns about cutting the fund ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/10).
In October, he sent a letter to the debt panel saying that the fund will make U.S. residents healthier and help reduce the national debt. He added that the panel should protect health benefits in its deficit-reduction recommendations rather than make more cuts (California Healthline, 10/13).
GOP Panel Members Appeal to 'Gang of Eight'
Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), members of the debt panel, are trying to build support for a GOP debt plan among Democrats who belong to the Senate's so-called "Gang of Eight," The Hill reports (Bolton, The Hill, 11/10).
Republican members of the debt panel this week offered a plan to reduce the deficit by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years by increasing tax revenue by $300 billion and raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. The plan also would increase Medicare premiums. The plan marked the first time Republicans have considered tax increases as part of deficit-reduction strategies (California Healthline, 11/9).
Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) recently joined the Gang of Six, which engaged in bipartisan budget talks last summer. Portman and Toomey believe that the GOP plan could serve as a base for a final deal if it gains support from the Gang of Eight (The Hill, 11/10).
Debt Panel Cuts to Medicaid Might Not Stop There
Any Medicaid cuts made by the debt panel could lead to similar cuts in the future, according to health policy experts participating in a discussion hosted by the Alliance for Health Reform, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Former Medicaid Director and House Democratic aide Tim Westmoreland warned the debt panel against making cuts to Medicaid. He said, "Any cuts today will be tomorrow's workability problems." He added that Medicaid creates jobs and that substantial cuts might leave the program unable to function. He also said that restructuring Medicaid could produce some savings while still maintaining the program (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 11/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.