Listening to the Obama Administration’s recent claims about how the sequester is going to affect the Department of Health and Human Services, you might be tempted to think that this sequester threatens your personal health. Warnings from the administration assert that the looming sequestration cuts to the agency will do everything from setting medical science back a generation, to leaving Americans at risk of consuming tainted food, to blocking access to vaccinations, cancer screenings, and HIV tests.
While the administration may call the sequester cuts draconian, the truth of the matter is that the reduction to the Department of Health and Human Services’ annual budget of 7.8 percent will take the agency back to roughly its 2009 funding level. Does anyone recall 2009 as being a year in which food-borne illness ravaged the nation (there were fewer foodborne illness outbreaks in ’09 than in ’10, ’11, or ’12), when cancer and HIV rates skyrocketed due to lack of adequate testing, and medical advancement halted in its tracks? Of course not. Because none of that happened then; and the doomsday scenario depicted by the Obama Administration will not happen now either.
The budget of the Department of Health and Human Services has more than doubled over the last decade, as the table below indicates. Even in 2001 when the department was operating on a budget of less than half of its budget today, science was advancing, food was safe to consume, and patients were being screened for various diseases.
The fear mongering related to these reductions is coming from those who have a vested interest in government subsidies, special interest groups who champion expanding government at every turn, and a president opposed to virtually any cuts to the size and scope of government. An agency budget that has more than doubled in a decade can easily absorb a cut of less than 10 percent. These cuts are not bad for your health; they are in fact healthy for a government department that has become bloated over the past several years.
The White House: Fact Sheet on the Effects of Sequestration
The White House: Historical Budgets of U.S. Agencies
Center for Disease Control: Foodborn Illness Outbreaks by Year