Mental Health America has joined with more than 140 organizations in opposing the use of prevention and public health funding included in the health reform law as an offset for a proposed Senate amendment to a jobs bill.
The amendment, which will be offered by U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) when the Senate considers the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (H.R. 5297) on September 14, would virtually gut the new $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund (Fund) to pay for a change in business tax-reporting rules.
The Fund was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to support national, state and local programs to make Americans healthier and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. President Obama has already allocated $500 million from the fund.
“Such an action would virtually eliminate the Fund, and mark a severe blow to this monumental commitment to prevention and public health under the Act (health reform law),” states a letter signed by the Mental Health America and sent today to all U.S. Senators. “ACA included historic reforms that have the potential to transform our health system. For too long, we have focused spending on treating people once they are sick rather than preventing illness in the first place. The Prevention and Public Health Fund is urgently needed to address the many emerging health threats our country faces and the persistent chronic disease rates that we must begin to control.”
“The Fund is an unprecedented investment in the health of our nation given that only four percent of health care is estimated to be spent on prevention and public health,” said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "We need to give this Fund a chance to work and help every community succeed in implementing much-needed prevention initiatives. Mental Health America opposes the use of this Fund as on offset for any effort including the Johanns amendment.
“Without substantially increasing the amount of money dedicated to prevention, the amount of money spent to diagnose and treat preventable, chronic diseases, including behavioral health conditions, will only continue to increase, something our nation can’t afford.”
Dr. Shern said that the amendment would actually increase burdens on business, noting that the annual cost of treatment, lost productivity, and crime alone for behavioral health conditions in young people is estimated to be $247 billion.
“They are major contributing factors to the overall poor health that is placing the nation's economic security and competitiveness in jeopardy,” he said. “Simple, modest investments in community-based prevention can begin to turn these trends around.
An analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities of the Johanns amendment, which would repeal a provision of the health reform law designed to raise revenue by reducing noncompliance with the nation’s tax laws, found that it would raise health insurance premiums and increase the ranks of the uninsured.
The text of the letter and a list of organizations that signed can be found here.