Submitted on Thu, 2014-03-20
By SMART Health Claims

Money earmarked by Congress for community health prevention programs diverted from the Prevention & Public Health Fund

prevention and public health fund funding

Budget transparency requests from Congress placed a spotlight on how the federal budget was allocated last year, and the news for local health departments isn't pretty. More than $450 million previously committed to local health programs through the Prevention and Public Health Fund was diverted to help with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

While the money was used for important programs including the construction of Healthcare.gov, it’s another blow to local health departments that have seen their share of budget woes over the past few years, making it harder to keep staff and to continue providing essential health services to the communities they serve.

Luckily for local health departments, the Prevention and Public Health Fund is said to be completely free from meddling in 2014. Agreements made during budgeting planning sessions in the Senate made the fund off limits this year. Both parties in Congress wanted to ensure that all funding got through to the departments, and not used as a “slush” fund for the Affordable Care Act to dip into.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund’s main sponsor, Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa, is very clear that this won’t be happening again (at least in 2014):

“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'.”

Optimistically, this stabilization of funding should hold true for the next few years. The government will begin collecting fees from the new insurance plans to work towards the Affordable Care Act becoming self-sufficient.

Pessimistically, it’s unclear how these grant funds will be allocated to support community health prevention programs beyond 2014. The status quo in the United States today, where 70% of deaths are from preventable disease, treating those diseases makes up 75% of all healthcare costs, and only 3% goes towards prevention, could remain the same.

It’s more important than ever for local health departments to learn how to develop self-sustaining revenue. Being able to supplement funding with your own revenue will help keep your clinic a success in your community. Being able to maintain or add staff and provide great health services to the community are too important to be solely controlled by the whims of politicians.

Learn more about how we make revenue generation for public health easy and about our challenge to help add $100 million in sustainable revenue to public health departments over the next 3 years.