With the onset of severe budget cuts known as sequestration, the impact on our public health could be harmful in Maryland and across the country. Here's where political leaders and public health officials agree: Congress should take action to limit these cuts’ effects by replacing them with a balanced plan for budget savings.
In Maryland, sequestration could lead to as many as 2,000 fewer children getting vaccinated against common diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, and the flu. Cuts to public health funding will curtail our ability to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases, natural disasters, and chemical or biological events. There could be nearly 15,000 fewer HIV/AIDS tests performed in our state, and 2,500 fewer Marylanders able to access substance abuse treatment programs, should Congress not act soon. Maryland's hospitals and other health care providers will also experience cuts from sequestration.
Nationwide, the effects of these cuts could mean delays in new drug approvals by the FDA as well as fewer research grants by the National Institutes of Health for cutting edge research into new cures and treatments for some of the deadliest diseases. Up to 373,000 children and adults with serious mental illnesses could go without the treatment they need – leading to the unfortunate consequences of increased homelessness and hospitalizations.
These cuts, which are automatic and indiscriminate, will create substantial uncertainty across the health care system. As a result, it is very difficult to plan ahead, and our physicians, administrators, and hospital workers will see an erosion in their ability to provide the services at which they excel.
Neither of us wish to see that happen, and we will continue to draw attention to the impact of sequestration’s detrimental cuts and support a balanced, sensible alternative.
Congressman Steny H. Hoyer represents Maryland’s Fifth Congressional District and serves as the House Democratic Whip. Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D. is the Maryland Secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene.