This letter was originally organized and sent by Trust for America’s Health. Please find the PDF version here.
May 17, 2017
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:
On behalf of the more than 520 undersigned organizations, we are writing to warn of the dire consequences of repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund (the Prevention Fund), which is repealed by the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) at the end of FY 2018. Repealing the Prevention Fund without a corresponding increase in the allocation for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill would leave a funding gap for essential public health programs, and could also foretell substantial cuts for other critical programs funded in the bill. As the Senate begins work on its version of health reform, we urge you to leave the Prevention and Public Health Fund in place.
Today, more than 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget is supplied through Prevention Fund investments. This includes core public health programs that provide essential funds to help states keep communities healthy and safe, such as the 317 immunization program, epidemiology and laboratory capacity grants, the entire Preventive Health and Health Services (Prevent) Block Grant program, cancer screenings, chronic disease prevention and other critically important programs. For example, the Prevent Block Grant provides all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two American Indian tribes, and eight U.S. territories with flexible funding to address their unique public health issues at the state and community level.
Despite the growing and geographically disparate burden of largely preventable diseases, health threats such as the opioid epidemic, and emerging infectious disease outbreaks such as the Zika virus, federal disease prevention and public health programs remain critically underfunded. Public health spending is still below pre-recession levels, having remained relatively flat for years. The CDC’s budget authority has actually decreased by 11.4 percent since FY 2010 adjusted for inflation, and the Prevention Fund has helped to make up the difference.
Discretionary programs, including public health, education, and job training programs funded through the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS) appropriations spending bill have been cut dramatically and disproportionately in recent years as lawmakers have worked to
reduce the deficit, even though experts across the political spectrum agree these programs are not a driving factor behind our nation’s mid- and long term fiscal challenges. Eliminating the Prevention Fund would be disastrous to the CDC budget and programs, and to the LHHS bill as a whole, leaving a nearly $1 billion budget hole which would be impossible to fill under current discretionary spending caps.
Funding prevention not only saves lives but it saves money. A comprehensive study of evidence-based prevention programs found that every dollar invested yields $5.60 in savings. There are many provisions of the Affordable Care Act aimed at promoting health and prevention, but the Prevention Fund is particularly important – a dedicated investment in prevention and public health activities to counteract the much larger bill – $3.2 trillion and growing – we pay every year as a country to treat illness and disease.
We urge you to maintain funding made possible by the Prevention and Public Health Fund and safeguard funding for the CDC and other programs under the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill.