Feb. 16 2012
Washington, D.C. — In a shortsighted move that will cost lives and money, Congressional negotiators have agreed to significantly cut one of the most important disease prevention initiatives ever adopted by the federal government to help pay for an economic package. The agreement cuts the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created by the 2010 health care reform law, by $5 billion – more than 25 percent. These cuts jeopardize the great promise of the prevention fund to improve health and reduce health care costs that drive government budget deficits.
Cutting the prevention fund is penny-wise and pound-foolish. The chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors the prevention fund is intended to address impose tremendous costs on our health care system and government budgets. Tobacco use alone costs $96 billion a year in health care bills. Health care costs are crippling our nation's economy. The commitment to preventing disease, not just treating disease, is critical to reining in America's health care costs.
The value of investing in prevention has been demonstrated by several recent studies that found tobacco prevention and cessation programs save far more money than they cost by reducing tobacco-related health care and other costs.
For example, Washington State's tobacco prevention and cessation program saved more than $5 for every $1 spent by reducing hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer caused by tobacco use, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. Massachusetts saved more than $3 for every $1 it spent helping beneficiaries enrolled in Medicaid to quit smoking, according to a George Washington University study. The study tracked hospital admissions for cardiovascular-related incidents, which fell dramatically among Medicaid patients who had used the tobacco cessation benefits.
Effective prevention will mean fewer premature deaths, less disease and more cost-effective health care spending, which is critical to reducing federal budget expenditures over the long term.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund represents a small fraction of what the nation spends on health care. We strongly urge Congress not to make additional cuts, which would further undermine this modest investment's potential to prevent disease and reduce medical costs in the future.