House Republicans recently released their funding bill for health programs for fiscal year 2012. Once again, House leadership is using the threat of a government shutdown to relitigate health reform and abusing the appropriations process to undo policies that were already enacted.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) claims that “excessive and wasteful spending over the years has put many of the programs and agencies funded in this bill on an irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal path.”
The House bill’s cuts to health programs, however, would do absolutely nothing to improve the nation’s fiscal health—nor could they. In total, the House bill provides $70.2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, a cut of $200 million and $2.8 billion less than the president requested. But total spending for the department amounted to only 1.8 percent of total federal spending in fiscal year 2011.
Simply put, these programs are not a driver of federal deficits. Cutting them would not put a dent in the nation’s debt.
On the contrary, the House bill’s budget for HHS would actually worsen the nation’s long-term fiscal health by defunding and delaying implementation of health reform. Effective and timely implementation of the Affordable Care Act will moderate the growth in health care costs over the long term. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act will reduce the federal deficit by $210 billion in this decade and continue to reduce deficits in subsequent decades.
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