5 Questions About Sequestration
One of the biggest issues facing women’s health care providers involves “sequestration.” But what does it all mean and what are the implications? We’ve put together an all-you-need-to-know guide about sequestration and its potential impact on women’s health.
1. What exactly is “sequestration” and why is everybody talking about it?
“Sequestration” is the term for the across-the-board, draconian budget cuts split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending. These across the board cuts were triggered on March 1, cutting $85 billion from the federal government between March 1 and October 1, when the government’s 2013 budget year ends. While important programs like Medicaid, CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program), and Social Security are exempt, the impact of these cuts will severely undermine our nation’s health care infrastructure. In fact, according to an official Office of Management and Budget (OMB) report on sequestration, there is “no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”
Over time, sequestration is expected to have a profoundly negative impact on our nation’s health infrastructure, including essential health care programs like Title X, as well as the economic recovery and job creation.
2. What is the impact of sequestration on women’s health?
Quite simply, the impact will be severe. How federal agencies will apply these cuts to their programs is unclear, but some estimate the Title X family planning program would face up to $26 million in funding cuts, bringing overall funding down to $267 million. Other women’s health programs that fund testing for sexually transmitted infections, like HIV, and sex-ed programs for young people could face steep cuts as well.
- Title X could lose $26 million.
- HIV prevention efforts funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could lose $41.7 million.
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention could lose $5.3 million.
- The Personal Responsibility and Education Program could lose $4 million.
3. Who is working to stop sequestration? What is Congress doing about it now?
Right now, Congress is developing its budget resolutions. You can read more about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s resolution here. He isn’t stopping sequestration. Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) budget resolution would stop sequestration but both of these resolutions are non-binding. Congress will need to stop sequestration through law and it looks like Congress isn’t focusing on that right now.
4. What happens next?
Now that sequestration has been triggered, Congress can either negotiate a budget deal to stop the cuts or do nothing.
Scenario #1: Sequestration hits and Congress negotiates a budget deal.
Now that the cuts have started, there is increasing pressure on Congress to reach a new budget deal to end the automatic cuts. This scenario will trigger a renewed legislative debate over proposals to reduce the deficit — a debate that women and families have a huge stake in — 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.
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. 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. These are just some of the benefits that could be cut if politicians make cuts to the health care law during budget negotiations.
Scenario #2: Sequestration hits and Congress does nothing.
Now that sequestration has been triggered, cuts to important programs like Title X, HIV and other STI testing, sex-ed programs, and grants under the Affordable Care Act are occurring. These are in addition to disproportionate cuts women’s health programs faced during previous budget fights in Congress. Right now, federal agencies and women’s health providers are still determining how to apply these cuts, which could reduce women’s access to health care.
5. What is Planned Parenthood fighting for?
Planned Parenthood is fighting for all programs that expand access to health care, especially for women. 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. Medicaid and the Title X family planning program are crucial lifesaving programs for women’s health. For millions of women, Medicaid and Title X make the difference between access to cancer screenings and birth control or going without. It’s especially important that Congress protect these programs because investing in family planning programs not only saves lives, it saves taxpayers money.
With potential cuts on the table, it is more important than ever to raise awareness about what is at stake for women’s health and the important preventive services Planned Parenthood health centers provide.