President Obama released his proposed budget for Fiscal year 2014 yesterday and it had some good elements, along with others that are disappointing. We’ll provide more analysis as we deepen our understanding and more details emerge.
We know the president and Congress are under enormous pressure to reduce the deficit while keeping the economy in recovery. Prevention Institute supports the president’s effort to cancel the sequester’s across-the-board spending cuts and replace them with a real budget that tackles the deficit. We are excited that the president has proposed an increase to the federal tobacco tax, which would deter young people from smoking and help fund universal pre-school, and that the budget would dedicate $30 million to track violent deaths and study the causes and prevention of violence. We are disappointed, however, that the budget would further cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other vital prevention efforts. Here’s what we know:
Health and Human Services will take $54 million from the Prevention Fund to hire “navigators” to help people traverse the new health care exchanges. HHS officials said at a briefing yesterday they would take more money from the Fund to implement the Affordable Care Act but didn’t specify how much.
The budget proposes a $79.7 million cut to the Prevention and Public Health Fund’s Community Transformation Grants program.
The Prevention Fund was established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a dedicated source of money for prevention and public health because policymakers saw it as an investment that would help move our inefficient healthcare system from treating the sick to one that prevents disease in the first place. Senator Tom Harkin, a true champion of prevention, noted that the administration was breaking its promise not to raid the Fund. “Robbing prevention when we know these efforts can reduce chronic disease and lower healthcare costs goes against the very mission of health care reform,” he said. We agree, and are concerned that if opponents of health reform refuse to provide funding needed to implement ACA, more raids may follow.
Other damaging cuts proposed in the president’s budget would:
- cut $350 million – more than half – of the Community Services Block Grant, which funds programs that work to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities
- eliminate the $80 Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, which helps local public health departments do their jobs
- eliminate REACH, a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that works to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities
“Cutting funding for community-based prevention efforts makes no sense,” said Larry Cohen, executive director of Prevention Institute. “If we want to improve the health or our nation and our economy, we need to invest in prevention, not peel away money.”