(H.R. 1217) On an amendment that would have required the Government Accountability Office, which undertakes investigations and studies for Congress, to conduct a study on the impact of a preventive health care program on states and local communities.
This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) that would have required the Government Accountability Office, which undertakes investigations and studies for Congress, to conduct a study on the impact of the Prevention and Public Health Fund on states and local communities.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund was established in 2010 under the landmark health care reform law that was strongly supported and signed into law by President Obama. The Fund authorized the Health and Human Services secretary to allocate funding to states for a wide variety of preventive health care programs, such as immunizations, school health centers, primary care physician training programs, and anti-obesity measures. Most Democrats strongly supported the Fund, arguing it would lower health care costs by expanding access to preventive care. Republicans derided the program as a “slush fund” for the HHS secretary. This amendment was offered to legislation eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
This was the second of two amendments calling for GAO studies relating to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The first amendment required a study on the impact of the Fund on preventing chronic diseases and promoting public health. This amendment required a similar study of the impact of the Fund on states and local communities.
Castor urged support for her amendment: “…My amendment requires a Government Accountability Office study within 90 days of enactment of this bill to examine the economic impact Prevention and Public Health grants have on States and local communities. Now, I can tell you we don't really need a study to understand how important prevention is and how important it is to empower our hometowns, local governments, nonprofits, whoever can come together on a local level and make these decisions about encouraging healthier lifestyles. The beauty of the Public Health and Prevention initiative is it's not Washington dictating all across the country a cookie-cutter approach, one size fits all. Instead, we empower our neighbors to make these decisions on what works best for them. I would say that what works best in my hometown back in Tampa probably would not work quite as well in Fargo or in Missouri.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) opposed the amendment: “…The Castor amendment directs the Government Accountability Office to make assumptions on the economic impacts of providing prevention, wellness, and public health activities under…[ the Prevention and Public Health Fund]. However…[the Fund] gives the Secretary of HHS complete discretion to spend this slush fund with little limitation. The amendment asks the GAO to determine the economic impact of spending when no one except the Secretary knows how those dollars will be spent. What will GAO base their assumptions on? Does placing signage for bike paths produce economic activity or does advocating higher soda taxes benefit the economy?... Members and the GAO cannot determine the economic impact of the fund because the secretary controls how it is to be spent.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 188-238. Voting “yea” were 187 Democrats and 1 Republican. 235 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the impact of a preventive health care program on states and local communities.