Today, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) voted against H.R. 3922, the Community Health and Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act of 2017, which would restore funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program for an additional five years while taking away funding from other critical healthcare programs.
While the congressman supports reauthorizing the CHIP program and closing the funding cliff for Community Health Centers, he voted against the measure citing concerns about how it slashes federal funding for numerous preventative healthcare services to offset the cost of the reauthorizations.
Specifically, H.R. 3922 would use $6.35 billion in cuts to the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) over 10 years as an offset. PPHF finances many critical preventative health programs in Texas, including immunization programs, school health programs, tobacco cessation, and diabetes control. Additionally, to raise even more funds, H.R. 3922 would increase Medicare premiums for seniors. The bill would create a new bracket for high-income Medicare beneficiaries, requiring enrollees to pay 100 percent of the Medicare Part B premium, as well as requiring an increased surcharge for enrollees on their Part D plans.
The legislation would also shorten the 90-day grace period for paying premiums to 30 days and provides only $1 billion in funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And although the measure would delay Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) cuts until 2020 it would allow $8 billion in cuts each year from 2021 to 2025. While this delay in cuts is something that would be of benefit to the community, it would be at the cost of many other very valuable programs.
“It is inconceivable that we have been forced to decide between insuring our children, and preventing them from getting sick in the first place,” Congressman Gonzalez said. “We are disproportionally affected by the proposed attempt to extend CHIP benefits for the 57 percent of children that are covered in 15th District of Texas. The lack of funding for community health centers in the bill, which is predicted to run out in January of 2018, could also potentially create further consequences for people and medical providers in our region that rely on this funding. Based on all of this, I have elected to reject the proposition that preventative care is not important, that we should simply focus on the treatment of disease, because that is not in the best interest of the 15th District of Texas.”
The Prevention and Public Health Fund now comprises 12 percent of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s budget and funds a variety of programs including access to vaccines for the very children CHIP seeks to protect. Slashing the Prevention Fund would affect these children directly, and inhibit state and local health officials’ ability to adequately respond to pressing public health needs, and remove their discretion to put the funds to work where they are needed most.
In fiscal year 2016 (FY16), Texas received nearly $3 million in tobacco prevention funding from the CDC Prevention Office on Smoking and Health (OSH). Of this funding, nearly $2 million supported the state’s comprehensive tobacco control program and over $1 million supported the state’s quit-line services. In addition, the funds distributed by the Texas Department of State Health Services include:
$13,709,350 for immunization programs
$6,288,485 from the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant. The Block Grant gives states flexibility to use the funding in ways that fit their communities and their unique needs.
$1,216,377 for tobacco cessation
$620,249 to prevent and control heart disease and stroke
$447,110 to combat healthcare associated infections
$376,476 for epidemiology and laboratory capacity programs
$262,135 to prevent and control diabetes and promote school health