Healthcare Providers Slam Republicans For Massive Cuts To Disease Control In Obamacare Repeal Bill
Republicans Face An Uphill Battle
In a session that dragged on for more than 16 hours and lasted until well after 4 a.m. Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the GOP replacement for ObamaCare in a 23-16 vote. And while this was transpiring, a brouhaha developed between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans scuppered “off topic” amendments promoted by the Democrats, who then proceeded to accuse Republicans of trying to push the bill through while people slept and without an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), writes Jenn Gidman, for Newser.
“You’re fearful the CBO will provide answers to questions that you don’t like,” including bill costs or likely divulging those who stand to lose coverage, said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI).
One of the crucial concerns regarding this bill is that it slices nearly one billion in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Public health advocates warn that this will eliminate funding for programs geared towards preventing lead poisoning in children and preventing disease outbreaks, according to CNN’s Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace.
Under the GOP plan, the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), which amounts to 12 percent of the agency’s budget, will be eliminated.
Republicans claim the fund, created by the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is a “slush fund” that has been used to fund Zumba classes and massage sessions. But the PPHF has grown from a sliver of the CDC’s budget to more than $931 million dollars that fund heart disease and stroke prevention programs, immunization, lead poisoning prevention and diabetes prevention, through grants for state and local programs, the CDC reports.
Eliminating the PPHF will devastate officials’ ability to detect and respond to public health threats including pandemic flu, the agency notes on its website.
And public health advocates concur.
While Republicans and Democrats were haggling over the ObamaCare replacement, members of the non-profit Coalition for Health Funding were also visiting Capitol Hill, imploring Republican legislators to reconsider.
“The senators we met with were generally receptive but I’m not sure we’re making headway in changing minds,” said Emily Holubowich, the group’s executive director.
But keeping the PPHF intact is “a must for keeping states and communities healthy and safe,” noted the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), adding that a quarter of the block grants provided by the fund are funneled into programs that strengthen responses to “public health threats,” Wallace and Marsh report.
Holubowich said “the funding is critical to the states and their efforts to protect the public.” Republicans, she added, are playing politics with health care. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that they want to destroy everything that smacks of Obama. Republicans seem that desperate.
“My sense is they (Republicans) in general support public health and disease surveillance but they are committed to repealing this fund, mostly because it’s part of the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
Fortunately, a number of prominent organizations, including The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association among others, have all spelled out their opposition to repealing and replacing ObamaCare, saying that they can’t support the bill “as currently written,” The New York Times reports. Each of the agencies voice concerns that this will definitely lead to higher numbers of uninsured Americans.
In a letter to legislators, the groups wrote:
“As organizations that take care of every individual who walks through our doors, both due to our mission and our obligations under federal law, we are committed to ensuring health care coverage is available and affordable for all.”
CNN notes the Republican bill does include a program that offers grants to states dealing with health issues, but this allotment, called the Patient and State Stability Fund, wouldn’t be provided by the CDC. And the high cost of health insurance seems to be the focus of this program.
Related: A Staggering Number of House Republicans Are Spinelessly Ducking Town Halls And Angry Voters
In an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) wrote that the program is broadly designed to “help low-income Americans afford health care and to repair the damage done to state markets by ObamaCare.”
“If they choose, states may also use these resources to increase access to preventive services, like getting an annual checkup. This program gives states new tools and flexibility to care for their unique patient populations,” he wrote.
But there’s a downside to this. If this fund is eliminated, all 50 states and the District of Columbia would bleed millions of dollars in grants — including California, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, goes before the House Budget Committee, and plans are in the works to hold a vote in the full House within a few weeks, The Hill notes.
It seems as if the GOP is really going to a lot of work to replace a program that has worked well for millions of people and has significantly dropped the percentage of uninsured Americans. And sadly, this appears to be an attempt to get back at former president Obama for all of the positive things he achieved here. Republicans are poor listeners when it comes to the American people, and what’s even worse is that they really don’t care, especially if they have the chance to discredit Obama.
Kudos to Jenn Gidman and Newser for bringing this story to light.
(Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)