Fiscal Showdown to Be Continued in Two Months: How It Could Affect Women's Health
In the final hours of the 112th Congress (nothing short of dramatic), the House of Representatives passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avoid income tax increases on most Americans and delay by two months the automatic large spending cuts which were set to take place January 2.
Congress may have temporarily avoided the fiscal cliff by coming to an agreement on taxes, but when it comes to required spending cuts, they simply kicked the can down the road. Whatever you want to call it — a fiscal cliff, a fiscal cascade, fiscal Armageddon — it will be back two months from now. That means the draconian spending cuts — the sequester cuts — will come into effect in March if they can’t reach an agreement on reducing spending before the final date. And it’s also tied up with another debt ceiling limit being reached at the end of February AND the fact that the government is only funded through March. Phew!
So what does this mean for women’s health? There are two scenarios in which important women’s health programs could face spending cuts:
- If the sequestration cuts take effect, many government programs could face severe cuts, including the Title X family planning program, which provides affordable preventive care to more than five million people each year. While the specifics of what get cut are unclear, some estimate Title X could face up to $24 million in funding cuts. Other women’s health programs like affordable chlamydia screenings, which help prevent infertility, could face steep cuts as well.
- The real challenge could be what a negotiated deal that’s NOT the sequester looks like. Many benefit programs could end up on the chopping block. The Affordable Care Act — which has already provided more than 45 million women with preventive care with no co-pays — could be at risk for funding cuts, as could Medicaid, which provides health care coverage for approximately 60 million people. Because of the price tags, policymakers who are looking to make significant cuts may turn to these programs. And there are many members of the House who have signaled that’s precisely what they want to do. It’s critical that Congress protects these programs and invests in family planning — which not only saves lives, but taxpayers’ money as well.
Whatever happens with the fiscal cliff negotiations — Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for health care.