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Sign on! Letter on Viral Hepatitis and the Prevention and Public Health Fund (Deadline May 9th)

Dear Colleagues:

As you may know, the House proposed to use the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) as an offset for student loan interest rates when they passed the Interest Rate Reduction Act. This action politicizes two paramount issues that should be every legislators priority – the health and education of all Americans.

Further, the fund’s unobligated FY2012 dollars would also be eliminated. You may recall that the Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) was allocated $10 million from the PPHF in FY2012. This action would jeopardize that funding. Though this legislation is not expected to pass the Senate and the President has already issued a veto threat, it is crucial for Senate leadership to hear from constituents and organizations opposing this legislation.

Attached is a letter from the Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership (HAP) to Senate leadership highlighting the impact the Interest Rate Reduction Act would have on viral hepatitis nationwide and encouraging opposition to any further cuts to the PPHF. On behalf of HAP, I invite your organization to sign on to this letter.

With Congress coming back into session next week, we would like to get this letter out as soon as possible. As such, the deadline for signing-on will be tomorrow, Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 5 pm EST. For more information or to sign on please email omairena@NASTAD.org.

I do apologize for the rush, but appreciate your cooperation in getting this letter out. Hope you are all having a wonderful week and I look forward to your responses.

*See full letter below

Oscar Mairena

Senior Associate, Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs

National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)

444 North Capitol Street NW, Suite 339

Washington, DC  20001

Phone: (202) 434.8058      Fax: (202) 434.8092

omairena@NASTAD.org     www.NASTAD.org

_______

May 3, 2012

 

The Honorable Harry Reid

United States Senate

Washington, DC  20510

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

United States Senate

Washington, DC  20510

 

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of the Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership (HAP) and the undersigned organizations, we write to oppose any decision to use the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) as an offset in the student loan interest rate negotiations. As students across the U.S. face sharply increasing student loan rates, we encourage our Congress to remain committed to enacting legislation that protects students and invests in our education system. However, efforts to utilize critical public health resources to off-set this negotiation is short-sighted and politicizes two paramount issues that should be of great concern to all of our legislators regardless of their party – the health and education of every American.

HAP, a national coalition of community-based organizations, public health and provider organizations, national hepatitis and HIV organizations and diagnostic, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, is especially concerned about the detrimental effects this decision would have on people living with or at risk for viral hepatitis.

Since its inception, the future of the PPHF came into question, especially during negotiations for the extension of the payroll tax cut and Medicare physician reimbursement (“doc fix”), which led to significant reductions in future funding of the PPHF.  As the “Interest Rate Reduction Act” makes its way to the Senate, we urge you to protect the PPHF and oppose any further efforts to reduce or eliminate the fund as it provides vital funding for the preservation and promotion of our nation’s public health.  In fact, this fund has already demonstrated that it can be cost effective in terms of averting emerging infectious and chronic diseases in our nation.

As you know, the PPHF established in the ACA is a multi-billion investment over ten years for public health programs.  The fund is urgently needed to address the many emerging health threats our country faces through a coordinated, comprehensive, sustainable and accountable approach to improving health outcomes and curbing costs. The investment supports disease prevention by promoting access to diagnostics and vaccines, strengthening the public health workforce and investing in evidence-based prevention programs at the community level.

As viral hepatitis advocates, we are especially concerned with the provision to eliminate any unobligated FY2012 funds from the PPHF. For the first time, the Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) is poised to receive an additional $10 million dollars in FY2012 from the PPHF for a screening initiative.  In order to reduce the public health and economic consequences of viral hepatitis, it is necessary that the PPHF be maintained in FY2012 and future fiscal years for the creation of the first-ever DVH national viral hepatitis testing initiative.

In 2009 alone CDC estimated that 38,000 Americans were newly infected with hepatitis B (HBV) and 16,000 with hepatitis C (HCV).  Unfortunately, due to the lack of an adequate surveillance system, these estimates are likely only the tip of the iceberg.  Additionally, an overwhelming majority of individuals living with viral hepatitis (65-75 percent) remains unaware of their infection and is not receiving the necessary treatment and care.   The baby boomer population (ages 46-64) currently accounts for two out of every three cases of chronic HCV.  As these Americans continue to age, they are likely to develop complications from HCV and require costly medical interventions that can be avoided if tested earlier and provided with proper treatment.

According to the CDC Professional Judgment budget for viral hepatitis, the top priority is to identify persons with viral hepatitis early and refer them to care by strategically increasing access to testing nationwide.  The HHS Viral Hepatitis Action Planestablishes a goal of increasing the proportion of persons who are aware of their HBV and HCV infection to 66 percent. The $10 million from the PPHF for DVH, though small relative to the federal budget, will go a long way in helping to identify individuals living with viral hepatitis and will move us closer to the goals established by the HHS Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

It is essential to the health of all Americans that we capitalize on the opportunity to invest in viral hepatitis prevention, testing, linkage to care, and education programs and transform our public health system.  In order to accomplish this, we must maintain the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  We look forward to working with your offices to maintain and strengthen the public health of our nation. Should any questions arise or if you need additional information, please contact Oscar Mairena at (202) 434-8058 oromairena@NASTAD.org.

Sincerely,

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