4 Questions About Sequestration
Since Congress failed to pass a budget, we are currently operating under sequester cuts. 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”?
“Sequestration” is the term for the across-the-board, draconian budget cuts that are 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 funding between March 1 and October 1. While important programs like Medicaid, CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program), and Social Security are exempt, the impact of sequester cuts severely undermines our nation’s health care infrastructure.
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 has the impact of sequestration been on women’s health so far?
Quite simply, the impact was severe. Federal agencies cut funding for programs vital to helping low-income Americans, including the Title X family planning program. 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 lost $15 million.
- HIV prevention efforts funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost $39.3 million.
- The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative lost $6.5 million.
- The Personal Responsibility and Education Program (sex education) lost $4 million.
3. Where are we now?
Federal agencies and women’s health providers are still assessing the impact of these cuts. When Congress created sequestration, they didn’t limit the cuts to only 2013, but extended the potential for deeper cuts each year until 2021. From now through 2021, sequestration limits how much money Congress can invest in different programs. These limits or spending caps mean that Congress cannot provide the amount of money actually needed to meet the needs of low-income women and their families.
In this latest budget deal, Congress agreed to organize a budget conference committee. This committee of 29 Republicans and Democrats is tasked with reconciling the House and Senate budget resolutions and ending sequestration. Right now the House Republican budget, sponsored by Paul Ryan (R-WI) would fund the government at a level that is $91 billion less than the Senate’s proposed budget, sponsored by Patty Murray (D-WA). Some Republicans also like sequestration because it cuts spending, but many Democrats oppose these cuts because they are so severe and hurt programs designed to help low-income Americans. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) have said they intend to focus the recently started budget negotiations on replacing sequestration (in whole or in part) for the next year or two with alternative deficit-reduction measures. Much like the budget fights of the past, this impending fight 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, Title X, and the Affordable Care Act.
4. What is Planned Parenthood fighting for?
Planned Parenthood is fighting for all programs that expand access to health care, especially for women. Obamacare 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 copay and preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings.
27 million women have already received preventive care like lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and Pap tests with no copay because of Obamacare. Under this law, nearly 12 million women of reproductive age will now be eligible for affordable health insurance coverage.
Planned Parenthood supports a balanced approach to the final budget deal that seeks to replace sequestration and continues to invest in important public health priorities without hurting the hardworking people that Planned Parenthood serves every day.
These are just some of the benefits that could be cut if politicians make cuts to the health care law during budget negotiations.
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.