By way of TPMDC, we read that the Republicans, in their ongoing quest to be more ridiculous and evil than cartoon villains, want to further reduce a provision of Obamacare, the Prevention and Public Health Fund (boldface mine):
The prevention fund was designed to help local communities combat disease and promote wellness. Republicans deride it as a “slush fund.”
Initially set at $15 billion, GOP leaders convinced the president and Democratic leaders to chop it by $6.25 billion in the payroll tax cut deal early this year. Having sensed that Democrats are willing to reduce its size, they’ll hope to continue chipping away at it.
Of course, this is incredibly short-sighted: most of these programs are pilots that, if successful, can then be expanded. That’s how things should work: determine if a program will meet its goals, and if it does, embiggen it (or, as I like to call it, ‘go Manhattan Project on its ass’).
So what are some of the wasteful things this “slush fund” is funding? Here’s one that costs $10 million called “Chronic Disease Self-Management Program”:
To award competitive grants to selected states to help older adults and adults with disabilities cope with their chronic conditions by providing access to evidence-based chronic disease self-management programs, and also to assist states develop sustainability plans to continue providing these programs after the grant period ends.
…well, that doesn’t sound so bad, but maybe I just cherry-picked the ‘good’ project? Fair enough. How about this six million dollar project–”Elder Justice”?:
To test and evaluate interventions designed to prevent elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
For a political party that is very partial towards the Ten Commandments, one would think the “Honor your father and mother” idea would find purchase. Then there’s this waste of $10 million, “National Diabetes Prevention Program”:
To expand CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program to support the establishment of evidence-based lifestyle change programs in underserved communities to prevent type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes.
I believe the target audience for this program should be known as ‘takers.’ Or something. Ditto for the $10 million to “provide breast and cervical cancer screening services to low-income, uninsured and underinsure women.” Goddamn Sandra Fluke.
But here’s a really outrageous use of $11.75, “State Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) Prevention”:
To fund health departments in healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevention efforts within their States by expanding State prevention activities and accelerating electronic reporting to detect HAIs at the State level.
I don’t even know why they’re funding this, since the private sector has done an awesome job of combating HAIs. Well, as far as we know…
But this $2 million item takes the cake:
To expand the work of the Geriatric Education Centers to support outreach and education to enhance healthcare providers’ knowledge of the disease, improve detection and early intervention, and improve care for people with the disease and their caregivers.
Look, once the Alzheimer’s really starts to kick in, it’s not like the patients are going to know the difference anyway, amirite? (also see “Elder Justice”)
Seriously though, not only are cuts to these programs, penny-wise and pound-foolish, but they are needlessly cruel–this is devil–take-the-hindmost as public policy. Unless you are either a Randian batshitloonitarian or a theocrat who thinks God sheds a tear every time a federal dollar is spent helping the unsaved, this is what government is supposed to do. Help the sick and elderly, improve people’s lives. And let’s remember something: it’s not as if conservatives (or their Democratic collaborators) are proposing serious alternatives to solving these very real, very important problems.
It also highlights the decadence and decay of our political press corps. I realize public health policy isn’t as sexy as illicit, private affairs, but if there’s a policy story with lots of red meat, righteous indignation, and a clean story line, this is it. Short of enslaving kids into child prostitution or mass murder, it’s hard to be more evil than this. Who cuts funding to help people with Alzheimer’s? Or breast cancer? Or funding for suicide hotlines?
(Actually, regarding suicide hotlines, Mitt Romney, that’s who).
The assault on the Prevention and Public Health Fund represents the worst of our political and ‘intellectual’ betters. It is a cruel, heartless abomination wrapped in the fig leaf of ‘deficit reduction.’
Something to keep in mind when the Grand Bargain talk reaches full screech.