Senate Should Vote No On Health Care Bill – Proposal Would Take Away Health Coverage from Millions and Harm Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jul. 25 2017

Washington, D.C. – This week, the U.S. Senate will debate and vote on proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While the Senate may consider several proposals, all of the proposals to date would take away health care coverage from tens of millions of Americans and greatly weaken disease prevention initiatives, including tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The Senate should vote no on these proposals that would do so much harm to the health and health care of our nation, especially to our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

The Senate bill threatens the progress our nation has made in reducing tobacco use – the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our country. The bill would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports key initiatives to reduce tobacco use and other leading causes of death and disease in the U.S. Currently, about 60 percent of the funding for CDC’s tobacco control programs comes from the Prevention Fund. Repealing it would likely mean eliminating programs that we know are working, such as the CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers (Tips) media campaign, which has motivated about five million smokers to try to quit and helped 500,000 smokers to quit successfully since its launch in 2012. Repeal of the Prevention Fund would also likely mean significant reductions in funding for state tobacco prevention programs and state quitlines, which provide tobacco cessation services and have been found to double or triple success rates in quitting compared to smokers who try to quit on their own.

The Senate bill would also cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health care coverage, including access to life-saving preventive health services such as tobacco cessation treatments. It cuts Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars, which is likely to reduce both the number of people and health care services covered. Such cuts would undermine efforts to reduce tobacco use among Medicaid recipients, who smoke at more than twice the rate of those with private health insurance (27.8 percent vs. 11.1 percent).

Tobacco use kills more than 480,000 Americans and causes nearly a third of all deaths from cancer and heart disease. Tobacco use also costs our nation $170 billion annually in health care bills, more than 60 percent of which is paid by taxpayers through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The Senate bill would significantly set back efforts to reduce tobacco use and prevent costly diseases like cancer, costing lives and health care dollars. It should be rejected.

 

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