Fiscal Cliff and Sequestration 101: How It Affects Women's Health
There are a few weeks left for this Congress to finish its business by December 31st—and the biggest issues (and most consequential) involve “sequestration” and “the fiscal cliff.” But what does it all mean and what are the implications?
The fiscal cliff is a term used to describe the combination of expiring policies, including the Bush tax cuts, Obama payroll tax cuts, and the impending sequestration (across the board budget cuts) set to take place January 2. If the government allows tax rates to increase, in conjunction with cuts to major government programs, it could seriously affect the economy and job growth throughout the country. While important programs like Medicaid and Social Security are exempt, the impact of these cuts according to an official Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report on sequestration, “would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”
The specifics of what gets cut from each program are unclear, but some estimate the Title X family planning program, which provides affordable preventive care to more than five million people each year, would face up to $24 million in funding cuts, bringing overall funding down to $270 million. Other women’s health programs like affordable chlamydia screening programs for low-income women that help prevent infertility could face cuts well.
In order to avoid fiscal cliff and sequestration, Congress and the White House have to come up with a new deal to reduce the deficit — which means we will have to work hard to protect the programs that women and families rely on most, including Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. While many programs that Planned Parenthood patients rely on could be affected by the ongoing budget debate, the Affordable Care Act is most at risk for funding cuts. This includes cuts to women’s preventive health benefits as well as insurance coverage subsides that provide a way for low-income people to buy health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act is the greatest advancement for women’s health in a generation — expanding health care for millions of women, including access to birth control with no co-pay and preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings. Already more than 45 million women have received preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and Pap tests with no co-pay under the Affordable Care Act. And under the law, access to affordable health insurance will become available for the nearly 13 million women of reproductive age who will be newly eligible for insurance coverage. These are just some of the benefits that could be cut if politicians make cuts to the health care law during budget negotiations.
Also, potentially at risk is the Medicaid program which provides health coverage for approximately 60 million people, and with Medicaid expansion set to begin in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, the number of people covered will only increase. Needless to say, it’s not a small line-item in the budget. Because of the price tag, policymakers who are looking for places to make significant cuts in spending may look to Medicaid.
In any budget debate, our priority is to protect women’s health care programs, including Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the Title X family planning program. For more on the fiscal cliff click here.