As U.S. senators rallied colleagues yesterday to adopt the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to keep the government operating through September, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, spoke of a particular virtue of the bill: full allocation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
“First, the bill advances my long-standing priority of shifting the American health care system, so-called, from a sick care system to a genuine health care system, emphasizing prevention, wellness and public health,” said Harkin, who championed the fund, during remarks on the Senate floor.
Harkin continued, clearing up confusion in some news stories that reported the measure cuts the fund when it actually fully allocates available Prevention and Public Health Fund monies for the first time, and he cites APHA support of the measure as proof that the fund is alive and well.
“In addition, this bill allocates nearly $1 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which I created in the Affordable Care Act, Title 4, which I was in charge of drafting. There’s been some confusion about this fund in the news reports so let me correct the record. In the past years, resources from the fund have been diverted to other health care purposes. This year, however, this omnibus allocates 100 percent of the resources from the fund to prevention and wellness activities.
“Now, it’s being reported that the omnibus cuts or eliminates the fund. I read that in the paper this morning that the prevention and wellness fund was cut by a billion dollars. Well, that’s just not so. That’s just a misinterpretation. Believe me, if it had cut a billion dollars from prevention and wellness, I wouldn’t be here supporting the bill.
“Section 218 of this bill allocates the money. That’s what we did. Far from eliminating the money, we identified — we identify where that money is to go, including $160 million for immunization programs, $104 million for cancer screenings, immunization programs, $104 million for cancer screenings, $105 million for smoking cessation programs, and on Oct. 1, another appropriation of $1 billion will be deposited in the fund under the Affordable Care Act and, again, I intend to allocate the fund then just as we did in this omnibus.
“If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that the fund is alive and well and fulfilling the purpose for which it was originally intended, consider this — the American Public Health Association has praised this omnibus bill specifically for allocating the prevention fund and they said — and I quote — “We are also pleased that the bill fully allocates available funds from the Prevention and Public Health Fund for the first time” — end of quote.
“So again as the author of that fund I consider the allocation of these resources to prevention and wellness as a major achievement in this bill.”
The Senate followed the House in passing the omnibus spending package, including full allocation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which now awaits the president’s signature.