Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Prevention about to Relive the "Stimulus" Experience?

Earlier this year, Congress had proposed spending between $3 billion and $10 billion on prevention and wellness programs when it initially crafted an economic stimulus bill. But when key senators insisted the overall price tag for the legislation had to fall below $900 billion, prevention's share was zeroed out by Congress before the White House intervened to insist on $1 billion.

Fast-forward to August and remarks made by Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., as health reform negotiators work to achieve a bipartisan bill.

As the Washington Post explains: "Before leaving for the month-long recess, Baucus had pegged the cost of the negotiators' ideas at less than $900 billion over the next decade. Thursday's discussions focused on driving that cost lower, the sources said."

The House version of the bill contained provisions requiring first-dollar coverage for many clinical preventive services, and establishes a trust fund reserved for prevention and wellness programs. Many observers fear such programs will be deemed "expendable," particuarly in light of Congressional Budget Office statements that prevention programs do not save money for the federal government.

Is it deja vu all over again?

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