This was a vote on final passage of legislation eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which invested $15 billion in preventive health care initiatives.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund was established in 2010 under the landmark health care reform law that was strongly supported and signed into law by President Obama. The Fund authorized the Health and Human Services secretary to allocate funding to states for a wide variety of preventive health care programs, such as immunizations, school health centers, primary care physician training programs, and anti-obesity measures. Most Democrats strongly supported the Fund, arguing it would lower health care costs by expanding access to preventive care. Republicans derided the program as a “slush fund” for the HHS secretary.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) urged support for the bill: “ This should concern every Member that we have created a slush fund from which the Secretary can spend without any congressional oversight or approval. No one here can tell us how this funding will be used next year or 5 or 10 or 20 or 50 years from now. We can't predict how the money will be spent--and worse, we can't even influence it. I would suggest to my colleagues that, if you wanted more funding to go towards smoking cessation or to any other program, the health care law should have contained an explicit authorization, because you are not guaranteed that a dime of the money in this fund will go to your particular activity. By eliminating this fund, we are not cutting any specific program or activity. I am not against prevention and wellness. This is not what this is about. This is about reclaiming our oversight role of how federal tax dollars should be used.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) also supported the bill: “This fund, called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, is almost $18 billion, which accounts for the next 8 fiscal years, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services gets to spend this money on any program that he or she deems worthy. What the money will be used for and how it will be used are, essentially, unknowns. Neither this Congress nor subsequent Congresses have any earthly idea. It is yet, once again, an abdication of our authority here in the United States Congress. It is an abdication of power in deference to the executive branch.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) opposed the bill: “For many years, Republicans have joined with Democrats in supporting programs to prevent disease, to promote health and, in turn, to cut health care costs. But today, the House will vote to end funding for the first and only Federal program with dedicated, ongoing resources designed to make us a healthier Nation. Every State in the Union is already benefiting from the resources made available from the fund to fight chronic and costly conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Repealing the prevention fund is a blow against seniors. In States like California, Michigan, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, they are using these funds to train personal home care aides who assist the elderly with Alzheimer's disease and other disabling conditions.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also opposed the bill: “Preventable causes of death such as tobacco smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and the misuse of alcohol have been estimated to be responsible for 900,000 deaths annually, nearly 40 percent of total yearly mortality in the United States. Further, 7 in 10 deaths in America are from chronic diseases. And by 2020, the U.S. may spend $685 billion a year on these chronic diseases. This fund works to bring down these numbers and to help Americans live longer, healthier lives. Preventive care is fiscally responsible. One example that would be impacted by this misguided legislation is vaccines. Estimates indicate that we save up to $400 for every illness averted by vaccination. And that does not even take into account the costs of further transmission in the case of a serious public health epidemic.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 236-183. All 232 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted “yea.” 183 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation that invested $15 billion in preventive health care initiatives such as immunizations, school health centers, primary care physician training programs, and anti-obesity measures. Since the Senate had not acted on legislation to eliminate the Fund, however, the program continued to operate.