Following the Prevention Fund Cut Trail…

February 27, 2012

In follow-up to last week’s approval of the Payroll Tax Bill by the House and Senate, at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) we feel it’s important to keep you updated of the ongoing dialogue around this latest development. As you may know, Congress’ temporary SGR fix came with a hefty budget reduction of $5 billion for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, an extension of the Affordable Care Act that provides crucial financial support for the prevention programs our health care system so direly needs.

As such, PFCD always welcomes the opportunity to spotlight other organizations and colleagues who share our passion for improving the quality of our nation’s health care in the most sustainable, effective ways possible. We’ve included a snapshot of this week’s editorial highlights below.  

  • The Huffington Post featured a piece written by David Katz, M.D., director, Yale Prevention Research Center, entitled “Four Reasons Why Prevention Is Acutely, and Perennially, in Peril.” In his op-ed, Dr. Katz reiterates his extreme disappointment over the recent Prevention Fund cut and explains the fund is a “key element in the Affordable Care Act that allocated funds to both clinical preventive services and community-based health promotion programming.” More poignantly, however, Dr. Katz goes on to say that the Prevention Fund doesn’t get the recognition or support it deserves because it’s a “public with no face and no name.”
  • The Los Angeles Times included an opinion piece by columnist Doyle McManus, who provided an overview of how President Obama and the Republican presidential hopefuls are approaching the Medicare debate. Many members of the GOP, including Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), advocate for a mandate to transform Medicare from a government-run plan to one that provides government assistance to purchase private-sector plans. By offering a system that allows seniors more choices from private insurance, Ryan’s supporters believe insurance companies will be able to more effectively keep costs down by integrating Medicare patients into their existing business model. Democrats, on the other hand, are against such system because it could shift the burden of rising healthcare costs onto the elderly. Nonetheless, McManus suggests that members on both sides need to forego their political agendas and recognize the severity of the issues at hand: “A heated, polarized election campaign isn't the best forum to debate complex, competing proposals for bringing down healthcare costs.”
  • Lastly, in a recent Fiscal Times write-up, contributor Merrill Goozner likened Congress’ latest rounds of cuts to selling a home’s storm doors to pay for the same home’s winter heating bills. PFCD’s very own Executive Director, Ken Thorpe, was also quoted in the article for his take on the Prevention Fund cuts: “We’re robbing from the one place in the Affordable Care Act where we can really do something about prevention.... [And] the fact that it ends up propping up a collapsing fee-for-service system is the ultimate irony.” Goozner went on to discuss a new study released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that suggests fee-for-service providers are not following recommendations for preventive services for people with Medicare. According to GAO’s findings, only two-thirds of women over the age of 65 received recommended biannual mammograms, while 40 percent of men over 75 still receive prostate cancer screening tests, even though prostate screenings are not recommended for men over that age.

As if more evidence was needed to showcase the challenges we face and the need for greater attention to prevention, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a study on obesity that found more people in developed countries are overweight or obese than ever before.  In fact, OECD estimates that an alarming 30 percent of Americans currently are overweight or obese.  Even with a prevalence estimate under CDC’s 34 percent obesity rate, America leads the list of fattest nations within the OECD.  According to Reuters, these people are dooming themselves to “years of ill health, pushing up healthcare costs and piling more pressure on health systems.”   

We’ll continue to share updates with you, but if you have other interesting news or material you’d like to share with the PFCD community, please feel free to share in the comments section below.