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Prevention Fund Lives to Fight another Day

Posted By Emily J. Holubowich, MPP, Friday, August 4, 2017
Updated: Thursday, August 3, 2017

In the wee hours of Friday, July 28, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) unexpectedly cast the deciding “no” vote on the “Health Care Freedom Act,” a bare bones version of Affordable Care Act (ACA) “repeal and replace” legislation. Senator McCain joined Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in defeating this final amendment to the House-passed American Health Care Act, bringing debate on the bill to a close. Even though the Health Care Freedom Act was a shell of all previously introduced – and failed – repeal and replace legislation, the bill nevertheless included a provision to terminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund beginning in fiscal 2019.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The administration is pressuring Congress to bring the bill back up for another vote or else, threatening to end cost sharing subsidy payments to insurers that will create a “death spiral” in the marketplace. Leading Senate Republicans, including the powerful Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator John Thune (R-SD), who serves in the number three position in Senate Republican leadership, are pushing back. They insist that Republicans will move on from ACA repeal and replace to focus on tax reform. At the same time, bipartisan groups of lawmakers are coming together to find ways to “repair” the ACA.

Regardless of where the ACA debate goes from here, it is clear Republicans are intent on repealing the Prevention Fund given that provision was included in every iteration of ACA repeal and replace legislation. These bills were not the first attempt to repeal the Prevention Fund, and they certainly won’t be the last. The public health community must continue its efforts to educate lawmakers about the value of public health, and the perils of repealing the Prevention Fund.

August is an ideal time to connect with lawmakers while they’re back home in district/state to educate them on the value of public health broadly and applied epidemiology particularly. We recommend downloading this guide prepared by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), which explains why it’s important for public health professionals to interact with policymakers and how to do so.

Emily J. Holubowich, Senior Vice President at CRD Associates, is CSTE’s Washington representative and leads our advocacy efforts in the nation’s capital.

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