ObamaCare Bill Includes Lobbying Funds

June 11, 2013

A rarely noticed part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act channels some $12.5 billion into a vaguely defined "Prevention and Public Health Fund" over the next decade. That money is going for everything from massage therapists who offer "calming techniques" to groups advocating higher state and local taxes on tobacco and soda, and stricter zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants, says Stuart Taylor, a nonresident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution.

The program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has raised alarms among congressional critics, who call it a "slush fund" because the department can spend the money as it sees fit without going through the congressional appropriations process. The sums involved are vast.

  • By 2022, HHS will be able to spend $2 billion per year at its sole discretion, in perpetuity.
  • What makes the Prevention and Public Health Fund controversial is its multibillion-dollar size, its unending nature (the fund never expires), and its vague spending mandate: any program designed "to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth" of health care costs.

Republicans in both the House of Representatives and Senate have complained that much of the spending seems politically motivated and are alarmed that some of the federal money went to groups who described their own activities as contacting state, city and county lawmakers to urge higher taxes on high-calorie sodas and tobacco, or to call for bans on fast food restaurants within 1,000 feet of a school, or total bans on smoking in outdoor venues, such as beaches or parks.

Source: Stuart Taylor, "ObamaCare's Slush Fund Fuels A Broader Lobbying Controversy," Forbes, May 30, 2013.

 

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