In November 2013, the NDD United campaign – founded and led by the Coalition for Health Funding – released a first-of-its-kind report to share the stories of individuals harmed by federal budget cuts. Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure received significant attention from the media and policymakers, and informed bipartisan efforts to provide partial, temporary relief from sequestration in 2014 and 2015.
Unfortunately, for too many, the pain continues. Sequestration didn’t end when Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan negotiated the Bipartisan Budget Act. Americans still struggle needlessly, and it only gets worse from here: the full impact of sequestration returns in 2016 and for years to come if politicians in Washington fail to act. This is unacceptable.
With the release of our new report, Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Hurt America’s Health, the Coalition for Health Funding provides a closer look at the impact of budget cuts across the public health continuum—from the shuttering of programs to recruit primary care physicians to rural areas, to programs designed to prevent the next measles outbreak. It is the product of months of collaborative work on behalf of 90 national health organizations representing more than 100 million patients, health care providers, public health professionals, and scientists nationwide.
Mostly, Faces of Austerity is about people. The more than 20 testimonials from real Americans featured in the report tell the story of seniors going hungry, women being denied access to contraceptive care, newborns not screened for genetic disorders, and others already harmed by Congress’ inaction and decision to not invest in public health.
The report also shines a light on the eroding public health infrastructure, and the lost opportunities of continued austerity. Indeed, a 5 percent cut to a federal program—as was required in the first year of federally mandated “sequestration”— translates into much bigger impacts on the ground. Federal contractors, grantees, and program beneficiaries must also cope with the cumulative effects of the federal government’s austerity measures, the erosion of the state and local funding base, and constrained contributions by the private and philanthropic sectors. They are, in fact, doing much more with much less than is recognized or reported.
As our report demonstrates, the existing austerity frame is unsustainable and insufficient to meet our nation’s mounting health demands. Americans do feel the pain of policymakers’ budgetary decisions, and continued health cuts do more harm than good. With deficits on the decline, it’s time for Congress to lift the spending caps and address our nation’s health. We hope our report will compel policymakers to work together and put an end to this dark age of austerity.
Established in 1970, the Coalition for Health Funding is the oldest and largest nonprofit alliance working to preserve and strengthen public health investments in the best interest of all Americans. The Coalition’s 90 member organizations together represent more than 100 million patients, health care providers, public health professionals, and scientists.
The Coalition for Health Funding is also the founder and home of NDD United, an alliance of hundreds of organizations working to protect investments in core government functions that benefit all Americans.