How Sequester Cuts Could Affect Black Health

Obamacare, WIC and HIV treatment budgets could be slashed. 

Posted: 03/05/2013 01:49 PM EST

The sequester is among us and the slashing of our federal government’s budget is not a game. An estimated $85 billion could be cut from hundreds of program,s including early childhood, defense, unemployment benefits and food safety.

Yet, some of the most alarming cuts are the ones that might happen to crucial health-related services aimed at helping low-income Americans and people of color.

— Obamacare: The Affordable Care Act’s entire purpose is to provide millions of uninsured Americans health care starting in 2014. But sequester cuts could slow down President Obama’s goal by slashing an estimated $66 million in grants, reported Think Progress. Not to mention, community health centers, crucial programs in poor communities, could close their doors to almost 900,000 Americans.

The ACA is important for African-Americans. A 2012 report found that it helped expand health care for 5.5 million African-Americans with private insurance.  

— WIC Program: While SNAP, a federal food stamp program, is exempt from the cuts, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program is not. This program provides food assistance, healthy food counseling and health care referrals to pregnant women, children under five and infants. An estimated $600,000 might be slashed, says CBS News. But depending on who you ask, this number could be as high as $775,000. This means more than 315,000 mothers and children could be denied assistance. It’s estimated that 19 percent of all WIC recipients are African-American.   

— HIV Testing and Treatment: The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a program that pays for HIV treatment for low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS, is also in jeopardy. The American Independent reported that 7,400 Americans might have to go without their life-saving medications if the cuts happen. Not to mention, $323 million in cuts made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget, could translate into 475,000 less HIV tests being administered in the upcoming year. 

It’s not a secret that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. While we make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for almost half of all new diagnosed cases a year.

Other cuts include:

— Mental Health: $275 million cut from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Mental Health Block Grant program. Almost 370,000 mentally ill children and adults will go without treatment.

 — Reproductive Health: Federal agencies that do reproductive health work such as STD testing, sex education and breast/cervical cancer screenings could lose $275 million. Including Title X Family Planning, which could lose up to $26 million.

Congress could push back the date of these cuts and in that time work with President Obama to create a more favorable budget that both Democrats and Republicans can feel good about. But realistically, we don’t know when and if that is going to happen.

Read more about how the sequester cuts impact our everyday lives here.

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