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Prevention Institute

Health Reform Rapid Response:
The Conversation on Prevention

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund in a 236-183 vote on HR 1217 (“Repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund”). The vote went along party lines, with four Democrats voting in support of repeal. The passage of HR 1217 was largely symbolic, as the bill will not be successful in the Senate. The Executive Office will also not support the repeal of the Fund; hours before the House vote, the Executive Office of the President  released a statement emphasizing the value of prevention. In reference to HR 1217, the Administration wrote that the repeal "could worsen the Nation’s health and increase system costs by defunding prevention activities." The memo ends, "If the President is presented with legislation that would eliminate funding or repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto it." 

While prevention funding is safe for now, with the passage of HR 1217 comes a reminder of the need to speak up for prevention.

The Stories

This week, as we’ve seen before, some policymakers and media outlets adopted “slush fund” language in arguments for repeal of the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Still others presented compelling cases in support of the Fund, emphasizing that prevention is a smart investment for our country.

  • To drum up support for the repeal vote, opponents of the Prevention Fund framed it as an expensive “slush fund.” Forbes reports that “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the government would save $16 billion over the next decade by shutting down the program.”
  • A Wall Street Journal column concurs with prevention funding opponents, describing prevention initiatives as “wince-worthy.” The column describes repeal efforts: “the GOP and the grass roots have been working up a lather over the ObamaCare "slush funds." The funds are a worthy target—symbolic of everything offensive about the new health law.” In this youtube video, Speaker Boehner makes similar claims.
  • Iowa Senator Tom Harkin issued a strong statement in support of the prevention funding. Harkin said that opponents of prevention funding “have made the short-sighted calculation that we should ignore chronic illnesses, rather than prevent them. Today, they’ve voted to save a buck in the short term rather than save lives in the long term; to save a dollar today, even if it means spending six in the future.”

Tips to guide your conversation:

It is essential that policymakers and the media understand that the Prevention and Public Health Fund saves money and lives. Given current economic concerns and fierce budget debates, making a case for the cost savings of prevention can be especially powerful. A Huffington Post column from California Endowment president and CEO Robert Ross, “An Open Letter to President Obama about the Importance of the Prevention and Public Health Fund,” does this well. Ross writes: “Health care is a national priority; therefore it requires a national approach. For decades, our health care system has been designed to treat patients once they are sick; now, thanks to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, we are finally beginning to shift to a health care system that will simultaneously prevent and treat sickness. Not only is this approach more affordable, it's more effective. But it will take everyone working together to make it successful.” Here are some talking points to help you follow his lead:

Here's what you can do:

  • Write a blog, op-ed, letter to the editor of your local paper or comment online in response to a news story or blog posting.
  • Have a successful example of community prevention in action? Please share it with us so we can include it in our talking points.
  • Visit our Health Reform Advocacy page for more information.
  • Make sure we have your zip code. We want to be able to mobilize people right where you live. Update your information here.

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