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Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on FY2013 Budget with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

February 28, 2012

Secretary Sebelius, thank you for joining us today for a discussion of the President’s 2013 Budget.  

An Administration’s budget is a reflection of its priorities and vision for the country.  I am disappointed to say that in reviewing the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget for Fiscal Year 2013, I find myself asking, “Where’s the leadership?  Where’s the plan?  Where’s the vision?”  

Despite repeated promises by this Administration to strengthen Medicare, to make health care more affordable for all Americans, and to reduce the country’s debt and deficits, the President’s budget fails to accomplish any of these goals.

The President’s budget lacks any guidance whatsoever about one of the greatest challenges facing the federal government and by extension American taxpayers – the long-term solvency of Medicare.  The Medicare Trustees have made it very clear that Medicare is going broke and that without reform it will not be able to provide the benefits so many seniors rely upon.  The Hospital Insurance Trust Fund alone has more than $8 trillion in unfunded liabilities and is slated to go bankrupt in roughly ten years.  

With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers becoming eligible for benefits each day, it is critical that Republicans and Democrats work together to secure Medicare’s future and ensure current and future beneficiaries have continued and uninterrupted access to much-needed care.  

This budget also lacks any assurance or evidence that the health care law will make health insurance more affordable.  Last year, health insurance premiums rose 9 percent for the average American family purchasing insurance in the workplace.

In part, Madame Secretary, health care costs are directly impacted by regulations and guidance being issued by your Department – including government-mandated health benefit packages and exchanges.  

Take, for example, your government-mandated benefits and actuarial value and cost sharing “bulletins.”  If implemented, these “bulletins” will significantly increase the price of health insurance.  Using these “bulletins” instead of standard regulatory procedures, you have chosen to hide the expected costs of your decisions from the American people.

It is clear that each decision your Department makes impacts the price of a monthly insurance premium and one more mandate, one more service, and one more Washington requirement only adds to the likelihood that costs will increase, not decrease.  

In addition to the costs consumers bear today, this budget ensures they will face even greater costs in the future.  The President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget contains the highest deficit ever proposed and fails to deliver on his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.  

For example, in our Human Resources jurisdiction, instead of consolidating programs, ending those that don’t work and making real reforms to others, your budget proposes creating more programs and increasing spending on others by over $10 billion.  How exactly does that help cut the deficit?    

I would also note that in addition to the $1 billion already spent on implementing the health care law, the budget requests an additional $1.35 billion.  Even more troubling is the fact that the President’s budget requests funding for an additional 848 full-time equivalent (FTE) IRS employees, compared to 136 CMS employees, solely for the purpose of implementing the health care law.  

What does it say about your health care law when you request more than six times the number of IRS employees to run it than you do CMS employees?  

Furthermore, over the next ten years, spending in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will increase as a percentage of GDP from 9.7 to 11.2 percent.  Madame Secretary, all this boils down to is more money for Washington to spend, more government employees to spend it and not a dime in deficit reduction for the hardworking American taxpayer.

I would like to close with a couple additional points.  Madame Secretary, on repeated occasions, Members of the House and Senate have written to you and your agencies seeking information about how the health care overhaul is being implemented.  Too often, those inquiries are either ignored or Members receive incomplete and insufficient explanations.  

Congress, and in particular, this Committee has a responsibility to conduct oversight of your Department.  We expect full cooperation from you and your Department so we can ensure that taxpayer dollars are used effectively, efficiently and in compliance with the law.

Many Americans opposed the new healthcare law because they believed it to be an unconstitutional power grab by Washington.  As if forcing Americans to buy a government-approved insurance wasn’t bad enough – something I hope the Supreme Court soon throws out.  That decisions made behind closed doors in secret by a small cadre of insiders will impact our most fundamental constitutional rights proves Americans have even more reason to worry.  

Madame Secretary, I hope you can provide some additional information for us today on how we address these problems for the American people.  I look forward to your testimony, and I will now recognize ranking Member Levin for his opening statement.