Consumers groups are warning of “tragic” consequences from a lesser-known part of the House GOP campaign to roll back Obamacare — whacking $9 billion over multiple years from efforts to battle food-borne illness and viruses such as Zika.
Republican committee leaders have called the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act a “slush fund” that spends about $1 billion a year.
But the practical effect is to cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget by 12 percent, according to a coalition of groups including the Consumer Federation of America.
“It simply makes no sense to cut back on prevention as potentially more consumers go without health insurance,” Thomas Gremillion, CFA’s director of food policy, said this week. “It’s a prescription with tragic consequences.”
Each year about 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million, get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases, he said. The CDC plays a key role in the public health system’s ability to detect and respond to such threats, he said.
The GOP-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement last year it intended to end the health fund as part of overall savings of $25 billion a year.
“This would eliminate the health law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund that provides the HHS Secretary unaccountable access to billions of taxpayer dollars for pet projects,” the committee’s statement said.
The Washington, D.C.-based Safe Food Coalition, made up of groups including CFA, wrote to Republican congressional leaders Tuesday to say the money is needed urgently to protect consumers.
“Detection of multistate food-borne disease outbreaks has been revolutionized by programs like CDC’s PulseNet, a national network of public health and food regulatory agencies that perform standardized molecular subtyping for enteric bacteria,” the group’s letter said.
“A 12 percent cut to the agency’s budget would create pressure to cut back on these programs, however, exposing more consumers to dangerous pathogens that go undetected, ” the letter said.