The American Public Health Association is afraid its concerns may be slighted once healthcare reform reaches President Clinton's desk.
That's why the association is blitzing Congress and the public with a renewed pitch, asking that 3% of the nation's healthcare budget be set aside for public healthcare spending. That would mean $30 billion for public health, a tripling of current dollars.
"There's talk about keeping teaching hospitals out of annual budget battles by setting aside the money to keep them funded," said Rachel Dale, an APHA spokeswoman. "If we simply set aside 25 cents per person per day-just 3% of our national healthcare budget-that would cover the cost of public health. It seems a small price to pay for staying safe and well."
Of the estimated $1 trillion spent on healthcare each year, 1%-about $10 billion-is spent by local, state and federal governments on public health.
The APHA said the effort to get a 3% set-aside would alleviate pressure on already-strapped state and federal Medicaid budgets, especially in states with heavy influxes of immigrants such as California, Florida and Texas.
The association's executives said the money allocated to public health departments across the country goes toward prevention programs that include everything from polio shots to tuberculosis and AIDS tests. The funding for those tests far outweighs inpatient hospital costs, the executives said.
"There is substantial evidence that money spent on preventative programs is financially beneficial-it's the `ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' argument," said APHA President Eugene Feingold, who is also a professor of health services management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
At least 3.8 million undocumented immigrants in the United States soak up "billions of dollars" in healthcare services each year, and hospitals are left with a large portion of the bill (July 4, p. 24).
In Los Angeles County, state and federal spending on Medicaid claims for illegal aliens amounted to more than $380 million in fiscal 1993.
The 50,000-member APHA is an organization consisting mostly of public health professionals, including social workers, nurses and other educators.
The APHA's proposals are part of Senate and House bills floating in various congressional committees.