Doc-Fix

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Money for Prevention Is First to Go in “Doc Fix”

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

The debate over the extension of the payroll tax break has dominated headlines. But as part of the same package deal was an agreement on the so-called “Doc Fix.” That’s the Washington shorthand for finding a way to avoid a 27.4 percent cut in fees to doctors who see Medicare patients. Naturally, doctors were not enthusiastic about having their fees cut so drastically.

Lawmakers figured out a “Doc Fix” but at the cost of the Prevention and Public Health Fund–part of the health care reform law. The deal is not yet final, but it looks like lawmakers will slice $5 billion–or about one-third of its total funding. Public health advocates had fought hard against these cuts, but to no avail.

“I know we’re at a place where difficult decisions have to be made,” said Mary Pittman, President of the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, “but it just doesn’t make sense that all of the difficult decisions end up focused on prevention. If we’re to change the way we think about health and we’re trying to find a way to reduce cost, all directions point to prevention.”

The goal of the Prevention Fund is to provide communities around the country with billions of dollars over the next ten years to invest in effective prevention efforts against heart attacks, cancer and strokes and to reduce tobacco use as well as prevent obesity.

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