New tax bill slashes essential funds, creates dangerous conditions for public health

Date: Dec 20 2017

Contact: Megan Lowry, 202-777-3913

Washington, D.C., December 20, 2017 - Tax legislation approved by Congress will create a dangerous environment for public health in which millions fewer Americans are insured, key health programs and agencies are desperately underfunded and income inequality is dramatically worsened.

The legislation passed today repealed the individual health insurance mandate, put into motion deep automatic cuts to key health programs like Medicare and the Prevention and Public Health Fund and will increase income inequality with new tax regulations that heavily favor those with higher incomes. APHA urges Congress to immediately waive the automatic spending cuts created by this bill to protect the federal government’s ability to respond to and prevent threats to public health.

"Our nation’s health is in a precarious situation thanks to this partisan legislation," said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA.  "Health agencies are already stretched too thin. This legislation will likely lead to less funding available for public health and other important discretionary programs, as Congress looks for ways to backfill the deficits created by tax cuts that mostly favor corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”

"Like a game of high-stakes poker, Congress is gambling with public health by undercutting our ability to protect against infectious disease, stop the opioid crisis and tackle chronic conditions that are making Americans sick," Benjamin added. "This bill creates a big fiscal hole that will harm our future health efforts."

The deficit created by this tax bill will trigger destructive automatic spending cuts as soon as next year, including the complete elimination of the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other mandatory spending over the next 10 years. The fund currently makes up 12 percent of the entire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget, and its elimination would cripple the public health workforce’s ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and continue critical prevention programs. Cuts to other essential public health programs like Medicare would harm older adults and those who depend on government-funded health programs. APHA urges Congress to waive these budget rules to prevent these cuts immediately in the interest of their constituents’ health.

APHA strongly opposes the decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that because of the repeal, average health insurance premiums will increase by about 10 percent in most years of the next decade. Without the individual mandate, millions will lose health insurance coverage, which will only undermine our progress in creating a healthier nation. Instead, we urge Congress to continue bipartisan efforts to improve and build upon the successes of the ACA, and expand access to health insurance for the more than 28 million who still lack coverage.

This legislation cuts taxes for the wealthy while increasing the tax burden on those who earn less, making the rich richer and the poor sicker, as income inequality is widely known to be a key determinant of health. APHA calls on federal, state and local governments to shift toward progressive taxation to help diminish income inequality and provide funding to mitigate the growing gap.

Congress’ decision to pass this legislation will undo the progress we’ve made over the last decade and harm public health in the immediate and long term. Congress should seek bipartisan policy solutions that make our country stronger, rather than leaving us vulnerable to public health threats.


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