Fiscal Cliff – Reckless Cuts to Lung Health

Blog Post by Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association

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What do automatic federal budget cuts and the fiscal cliff have to do with the health of Americans? More than you could imagine. The fiscal cliff threatens blunt, across-the-board cuts to vital programs in the fight against lung disease – including research, education and prevention programs.

These budget cuts would weaken already financially-strapped public health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If the fiscal cliff cuts take effect, their funding will be slashed by up to 8 percent. Imagine what would happen if you took an 8 percent pay cut, and you can immediately understand the serious damage this will do to the health of our nation and to lung health specifically.

Lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States. That means all of us have been and will be touched in some way by the tragic toll of diseases like lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and others. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in America. More than 25 million people, including 7 million children, suffer from asthma.

As a nation we've been making lifesaving progress in the fight against lung disease, but continued progress takes continued funding. Across-the-board cuts could stop this hard-earned progress in its tracks. Programs at the CDC that tackle childhood asthma, help people quit smoking and keep kids from starting would face drastic reductions or even be abandoned. At the NIH, research to find preventions, treatments, and even cures, for threats like lung cancer and COPD would be slashed, ending or delaying promising research. And the EPA would face crippling cuts, limiting its ability to protect all of us from toxic pollutants in the air and reducing the public's right-to-know about air quality where they live. More information about the impact of sequestration can be found on the Senate Committee on Appropriations' website.

But our lungs don't need to go over this cliff – especially not without a parachute. We at the American Lung Association have called on Congress to take a balanced approach that protects lifesaving public health programs from any further cuts. While we recognize the deficit and the increasing debt that our nation faces, investment in these vital programs saves lives, reduces health care costs and strengthens our nation. Across-the-board cuts that don't take into account the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens, including our children and the elderly, are not "fiscally responsible," they're just reckless.

Together, the consequences of going over the cliff can be stopped and indiscriminate cuts that threaten our lung health avoided.

Harold Wimmer
National President and CEO
American Lung Association