House Republicans Propose Billions in Healthcare Cuts to Avoid Mandatory Reduction in Defense Spending
House Republicans have introduced legislation to replace mandatory spending cuts required by last year’s Budget Control Act. The bill is the start of an effort by House leadership to prevent $600 billion in defense cuts over 10 years. Six House committees have put forward proposals for alternative spending cuts, including billions in health care funding, preserving defense spending at the expense of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. The House Energy & Commerce Committee proposed eliminating grants to help establish health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as placing limits on Medicaid payments. The House Ways and Means Committee proposed eliminating a component of the ACA that is meant to help low-income people buy health insurance.
The House is expected to take action on the legislation before the upcoming Memorial Day recess. Even if it passes however, it would face significant hurdles in the Senate and would likely be vetoed by the President. NMAC is continuing to engage members of Congress on the importance of health care funding, and will update its constituents on any developments around this latest attempt to undermine implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Sen. Akaka Introduces the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2012
On April 26, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2012 (S. 2474) to address health disparities impacting communities of color. Together with the House version (H.R. 2954), introduced last year by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), the proposed legislation builds upon the reforms included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand targeted care in minority communities across the U.S. and provide affordable access to high-quality health care regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, physical, and geographic circumstances.
The HEAA includes several provisions to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, including Congresswoman Maxine Water’s (D-CA) STOP AIDS in Prison initiative, which would require the Bureau of Prisons to develop a comprehensive plan within one year to provide HIV testing, treatment, and prevention programming for inmates within the correctional system. Further, the bill calls on the Institute of Medicine to compile a report detailing all aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among African-Americans and develop specific implementation recommendations to address the epidemic’s impact, specifically focusing on collaboration with Black clergy.
Read NMAC’s press release on Sen. Akaka’s introduction of the HEAA here.
House Votes to Decimate the Prevention and Public Health Fund
The House of Representatives passed legislation last Friday that would maintain reduced student loans interest rates by cutting billions from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The interest rate for federally subsidized student loans is scheduled to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for more than 7 million students on July 1st if Congress does not act. Democrats, led by President Obama, have been pressuring House Republicans to take action before that happens, but proposed eliminating subsidies for oil companies to pay for it. Instead House Republicans aim to pull the funds from the PPHF, to the tune of $6 billion.
While the President has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk, the use of student loan rates by Democrats as a major campaign issue could leave the President in a difficult position politically. NMAC is working with its coalition partners to shore up support for the PPHF in the Senate and will update its constituents on any important developments.
Senate Votes to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act
After months of deadlock in the Senate over the Violence Against Women Act, Senate Republicans made temporary peace with Democrats last week and approved the reauthorization of the popular law designed to help prevent and respond to domestic and sexual abuse. Passage of the legislation by a comfortable margin of 68-31 gives momentum to the bill, which would reauthorize more than $650 million in programs. The bill still faces hurdles in the House, however, where Republican leaders plan to offer an alternative proposal.
Addressing domestic violence is critical to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Last month, the White House announced the formation of an inter-agency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. NMAC will continue to track the VAWA and update its constituents on any movement around the bill.
HHS Adds Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Program to List of Evidence Based Prevention Programs
Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services added Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program to the Office of Adolescent Health’s list of evidence-based programs. The agency did not seek any input from the HIV/AIDS community, and did not even issue a press release around the revised list of approved programs.
Like many abstinence-only until marriage programs, Heritage Keepers misleads young people about protection from HIV, STIs and pregnancy, providing no discussion of the benefits of using condoms and contraception and reinforces homophobia by focusing on heterosexual marriage and ignoring LGBT youth, who still cannot marry in most states and at the federal level.
See NMAC’s action alert on the inclusion of the Heritage Keepers program in the OAH’s list of evidence-based programs here.