Reduction in prevention budget would fund interest-rate bill
The House passed a bill that would cut $5.9 billion in healthcare funding to pay for a freeze in interest rates on student loans, an approach that drew a veto threat from the White House. The bill, passed 215-195, would pay for the cost of preventing a doubling of student loan interest rates in July through cuts to the 2010 healthcare law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provided an advanced appropriation of about $16 billion for the fund, as well as about $2 billion in annual appropriations. The White House Office of Management and Budget, in a statement shortly before the House vote, called the legislation “a politically motivated proposal.” House Democrats, who preferred an approach funded by eliminating some tax deductions for oil and gas companies, said cuts to the prevention fund was part of the Republicans’ “war on women” because it partly would pay for screening for diseases that affect primarily women. Republicans countered that members of both parties voted earlier this year to cut $5 billion from the fund to help stave off cuts in physician’s Medicare pay rates, and the president’s budget issued in February proposed cutting an additional $4 billion from the fund. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also acknowledged in testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee that cuts to the fund would not eliminate access to preventive services. Senate Democrats would prefer to fund the interest-rate freeze through increased payroll taxes on some high-income filers.