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The Conversation on Prevention
Health Reform Rapid Response

On Tuesday, Senator Johanns' (R, NE) amendment to the small business jobs bill was defeated. The amendment would have freed business from the IRS reporting red tape written into health reform, but would have offset costs by gutting the landmark Prevention and Public Health Fund. Thanks to all of you for your efforts to defend prevention -- we have seen real results.

Still, our review of the national conversation shows that many stories aren't quite covering the real reason Johanns was defeated, which was the surge of support for prevention. Read on to see what they're saying, and how you can help put prevention into the dialogue.

The Stories

The Johanns amendment failed because members of the Senate were unwilling to strip funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. But much of the media coverage of the amendment's failure made no mention of the Fund--and when prevention was covered, it was painted as a party-line issue. Prevention is good for our economy and good for our health--and a majority of Americans, Democrat and Republican, agree. We need to ensure that prevention is not portrayed as a partisan issue--the data we've included below can help refute that claim. Here's the conversation:

  • Mike Johanns: Fix in small business bill would end onerous costs. In an op-ed the day before the vote, Johanns attacks prevention, describing health reform's prevention funding as a slush fund: "[the amendment] would delay the implementation of an ambiguous public health fund that many have called a slush fund. Everyone supports legitimate programs that improve public health. Congress already allocates a billion dollars per year for this cause. An additional slush fund is not appropriate."
  • Protecting small businesses from the Health Bill's consequences (Sen. Mitch McConnell). Just before the vote on Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blogs "the Johanns Amendment fully repeals the 1099 mandate and would halt the Democrats' backdoor attempt to further place the costs of their health care plan on the backs of small businesses."
  • Dueling proposals to alter tax-reporting mandate fail in the Senate.
    In this Los Angeles Times article, the no-vote on the amendment is an example of the Senate's inability to get things done: "Republicans and Democrats agree that the requirement, part of healthcare legislation, is bad for small businesses....But they can't agree how to fix it."
  • Small Businesses -- 1099 relief expected to fail. Fox News puts prevention and public health squarely on the Democratic side of the aisle: "A full repeal [of the reporting requirement] would deprive the federal government of an estimated $17 billion in revenue, with Johanns advocating that the money be removed from prevention and public health programs.  A vast majority of Democrats are, therefore, expected to support the Nelson provision, which pays for itself by an increase in taxes on big oil companies."
  • Sens. seek to assuage small businesses. In this Politico piece, the Democrats' defense of the prevention fund is framed as nothing more than political maneuvering: "Democrats appear reluctant to allow Republicans to repeal even a small piece of their hard-won legislation."

It is critical that Tuesday's victory for prevention is portrayed as a win for health, the economy and our communities. We all support small businesses, and advocates need to let the media and politicians know that defunding prevention should never be an option when it comes to helping small businesses.

Talking points to guide your conversation:

These talking points incorporate some just-released new data. Follow the links to read the full story.

  • Prevention is not a partisan issue. In fact, a November 2009 survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies demonstrated that prevention investments were one of the most popular elements of health reform among Democrats and Republicans alike. Increasing investment in prevention was supported by 85% of Democrats, 59% of Republicans, and 68% of Independents.
  • Prevention saves money. A Brookings Institution study released on Tuesday finds that obesity costs the US $215 billion a year in direct medical costs and lost productivity. An American Lung Association study shows that every year, "smoking results in costs to the US economy of more than $301 billion." Community prevention dollars are working right now to alleviate some of these soaring costs. The Department of Health and Human Services just disbursed another $31 million for prevention and wellness projects via Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants, supporting efforts to reduce smoking and increase healthy eating and physical activity levels in communities across the country.
  • The defeat of Johanns promises gains for small business. A University of Michigan study demonstrated that workplace wellness programs have long-term health and cost-saving benefits. One Midwest utility company showed a net savings of $4.8 million in employee health and lost work time costs over nine years. We won't be helping small business, or the economy, by gutting the Prevention Fund.

Here's what you can do:

  • Continue making the case for prevention: share your examples of prevention in action with us.
  • Write a blog, op-ed or letter to the editor of your local paper or to any of the outlets we've mentioned above, making the case for prevention. For examples, see our press release.
  • Visit our Health Reform Advocacy page for more information.

Thanks for staying involved!

Using our talking points? Let us know! Email us with your feedback, leads on relevant stories and comments.

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