Congress has restored funding to the FY 2010 level, a 1000% increase (yes, nearly a 1000% increase) for Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program. This competitive state-based program allows rural areas to buy automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in bulk, place them where sudden cardiac arrests are likely to occur, and train lay rescuers and first responders in their use. Only 8% of sudden cardiac arrest sufferers outside of a hospital live, but prompt CPR and early intervention, using an AED, can more than double chances of survival. The AHA is grateful that in this era of deficit reduction that Congress recognizes the significance of this life-saving program, which will increase sudden cardiac arrest survival rates in rural areas.
The failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to come up with a plan to reduce $1.2 trillion from the national deficit means that automatic across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect in 2013 to achieve these savings required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. So, nearly every federal program, including this AED program, will be slashed by more than 9% in just one year. This size reduction will mean that more people, particularly in rural areas, will die from sudden cardiac arrest. Also, the budget caps imposed under the 2011 Budget Control Act for FY 2013, which freeze overall discretionary spending, could result in even larger cuts for this life-saving program. In addition, the President could again include no money for this program in his FY 2013 budget, which is scheduled to be submitted to Congress on February 6th, despite the fact that Congress rejected a similar attempt in his FY 2012 proposal. The AHA will be working to restore HRSA’s Rural and Community Access to Emergency Devices Program to its FY 2005 level when 47 states received resources for this initiative.