Let’s thank our friends -- real champions of prevention -- for their hard work
Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that an additional $332 million will be drawn from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for healthcare insurance enrollment in 2013. Not to be outdone, the House was poised to vote on stripping $3.6 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to extend the temporary high-risk insurance program -- pitting prevention against short-term health care coverage for people with preexisting conditions. A flurry of negative media coverage resurrected tired accusations, calling the Prevention and Public Health Fund a “slush fund” for “pet neutering and urban gardening,” rather than a vital component of building a healthier, more equitable future for all Americans.
Click here to read a story in the Washington Post on the history of the Fund and why it's so frequently been targeted for cuts.
Fortunately, several members of Congress emerged to defend prevention. Frustrated by the Administration’s willingness to drain the Fund to pay for other programs, long-time prevention champion Senator Harkin exclaimed, “I’m sorry to say this administration just doesn’t seem to get it -- first of all it was a $5 billion raid last year on prevention funds. This year it’s another $332 million raid… it’s sort of like the prevention fund is sort of an afterthought.” Senator Harkin then halted the nomination process of interim CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a bold move to engage the White House in a broader discussion about the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) also took a stand for the Prevention Fund. “We all know it’s a crucial part of the health care system,” said Representative Pallone. Both legislators introduced amendments to explore other ways of funding the high-risk insurance program -- but both were defeated. In a letter to Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray in March, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota argued for the preservation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Senators Harkin and Franken and Representatives Capps and Pallone are working hard to protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund -- but they can’t do it alone. They need all of our support and encouragement. That’s why we are launching a sustained effort to thank legislators when they stand up for prevention: please use our online tool to thank these legislators and tell them what their efforts to preserve prevention funding mean to your community.
Here are some talking points you can use in your legislative outreach, or to guide an op-ed or letter to the editor in support of the Prevention Fund:
- Health care coverage without prevention makes no sense -- quality, affordable medical care and community prevention work hand-in-hand. Pitting the Prevention Fund against the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is an unfair and shortsighted strategy that will only hurt our country’s health -- and economy -- in the long run.
- By supporting prevention, you are supporting communities with safe streets for children to walk and bike to school. The Prevention Fund works to ensure that residents in all communities can breathe air free from toxic tobacco smoke and pollution, buy affordable, healthy food right in their neighborhoods, and feel safe enough to take a walk around the block – things many of us take for granted.
- Those who want to take away the Prevention Fund want to trade a healthy tomorrow for sick care today. The Prevention Fund improves health, saves money and strengthens our country and economy by keeping our communities and workplaces healthy in the first place. Cutting funds for prevention will cost money, not save it. We must work to addresses our country’s immediate health needs while we maintain the Prevention Fund and its promise of a healthier tomorrow.