Health Advocates Upset At Prevention Fund Cuts In Payroll Tax Deal

Congress has passed legislation to “renew a payroll tax cut that benefits 160 million workers, as well as extending benefits to millions of unemployed Americans.” The package will also delay an impending 27 percent cut in Medicare physician payment rates — scheduled to go into effect March 1 — until the end of the year, but will cut $11.6 billion in funding from the Affordable Care Act. $5 billion will come directly from the law’s prevention fund, which was established to finance prevention, wellness and public health activities. The fund was supposed to reach $2 in fiscal years 2015 under current law, but now “won’t hit the $2 billion mark until fiscal 2022, according to the conference report Congress cleared Friday.” Some Democrats and health advocates are unhappy about the maneuver, noting that “sacrificing disease prevention in the name of budget austerity makes no economic sense and diminishes our ability to improve public health.” But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is adamant that the fund will replenish over time by design at a “rate of about $2 billion a year in the next few years.” — Fatima Najiy