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Senate Health Care Bill Jeopardizes Vaccination Rates

July 13, 2017

National gains made in vaccination rates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are at risk under the proposed Senate health care bill, according to a report in Scientific American.

Coverage for federally recommended vaccines is robust under the ACA, which requires new health insurance plans to cover such immunizations without patient co-pays or deductibles. The ACA more broadly requires health insurers to cover essential health services, such as vaccines.

The proposed Senate health care bill, however, would allow individual states to decide which services are deemed essential and whether or not preventive care like vaccines should be required coverage, the article explained.

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In addition, the bill proposes cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which—in addition to helping fund emergency preparedness and response—includes more than $300 million in childhood vaccination funding and pays for nearly 12% of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget. That, combined with the bill’s proposed Medicaid cuts, would likely lower vaccination rates nationally and could potentially endanger public health.

“If people lose health care coverage, fewer people will be protected by vaccines that prevent cancer, pneumonia, and other painful and deadly conditions,” said Tom Frieden, MD, director of the CDC under President Barack Obama, in the article. Add to that the elimination of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and “there will be further erosion of our country’s first line of defense against infections,” he said.

The report cites a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 meeting that found ACA vaccine coverage was improving vaccination rates. That study credited the ACA with higher rates of completed DTaP (diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis) immunizations among young children, with the largest effects among children living in poorer households.

Jolynn Tumolo

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