Moments before the House Republicans disregarded President Obama’s veto threat and passed a bill preserving lower interest rates on student loans by gutting the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, the Democratic women of the 112th Congress blasted Republicans for undermining women’s health, arguing that the Fund would disproportionately benefit women. “It particularly benefits the reproductive health care, child bearing health care, preventive health care that benefits women,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said and predicted that the action would further shrink the GOP’s support among female voters.
“We would prevent screenings for breast and cervical cancer,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) explained. “This fund helps to prevent coronary heart disease — and that is the leading killer of women in America. It mitigates osteoporosis, arthritis, mental illness — which disproportionately effect women in the United States.” Watch it:
The GOP measure — which passed in a vote of 215-195, with the support of 13 Democrats — finances the $5.9 billion cost of maintaining the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans for one year by repealing the Fund in its entirety and rescinding all unobligated balances, including money being spent this year. Health advocates believe that the Fund is essential for re-orienting the American health care system towards prevention of chronic conditions, which are “responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending.” Under the law, the Fund will “invest $12.5 billion over the next ten years (FY2013-FY2022) in effective programs proven to prevent disease and injury.”
“I call your attention to the fact that they don’t only take out what they need, they want to eliminate the Fund,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters. “I view it as a statement of their values.” Democrats tied the action to the GOP’s proposals to restructure the Medicare program — which would force future seniors, particularly women to pay more for coverage — and their opposition to renewing an inclusive Violence Against Women Act.
Significantly, the Fund is also being used to increase “the size of the health care workforce” “to create new residency positions for primary care doctors and ramp up training capacity for physicians” and fund programs “to reduce obesity and tobacco use by targeting environmental factors — things like providing safe walking paths for exercise or access to smoking cessation programs.”