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Five Press-Worthy Moments from Ways and Means Hearing with HHS Secretary Becerra

March 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – During Tuesday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Republicans questioned HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on President Biden’s budget gimmicks, why he offers no plan to prevent $500 billion in looming cuts to Medicare, why HHS employees are not showing up to work, and why wealthy families are eligible for taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies.

Biden Health Secretary Unable to Show How Biden’s Budget Protects Medicare Beneficiaries from $500 Billion in Looming Cuts

Thanks to Democrats’ reckless spending during two years of one-party Democrat control, Medicare is facing $500 billion in cuts. Despite Democrat talking points to the contrary, the President’s budget threatens the hard-earned Medicare benefits of seniors. When asked by Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO), Secretary Becerra was unable to point to how the Biden Budget protects beneficiaries from benefit cuts.

Chairman Smith: “During the Biden Administration’s first two years, we have seen nearly $2 trillion in unpaid for reckless Democrat spending. According to PAYGO law, this will result in $500 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next decade…Why don’t you account for these looming cuts in your budget and what are you going to do to prevent them from taking place?

Secretary Becerra: “Mr. Chairman, we can try to go through numbers…

Chairman Smith: “But the budget doesn’t say anything about the $500 billion in looming cuts from PAYGO.

Health Secretary Unable to Explain Photo of Empty Parking Lot at Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Headquarters During Workday

On top of the $4.7 trillion in tax increases on workers and job creators requested in the President’s FY24 budget, taxpayers are also being asked to fork over more money to pay for office space at the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, their employees aren’t even bothering to show up for work.

During the hearing, Secretary Becerra was confronted by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) with a photo showing an empty parking lot at CMS headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland:

Approximately 4,000 of your employees are based at the CMS Woodlawn, Maryland headquarters…I have a photo, this picture, while you say these people are at work. This is of last Monday, March 20, at 10:30 AM in the morning. This is a beautiful parking lot. There’s everything on there except cars…This is your office building and you’re telling me they’re working full time…Then you request another $18 million in rent compared to last year…so why should the American people be expected to pay rent for an office building that isn’t being used?

HHS Secretary Becerra Won’t Definitively Say Whether Federal Funding Is Going Towards Clinics Providing Sex Change Services for Minor Children

Despite being asked directly by Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), HHS Secretary Becerra would not say definitively whether federal funding was being used to provide sex change services for children, also known as “pediatric gender-affirming treatment.” In fact, Secretary Becerra bemoaned that he was being asked about every facility in the country – which he admitted he has oversight over.

Van Duyne: Approximately 100 facilities nationwide, also known as ‘pediatric transgender clinics’ are performing ‘gender affirming treatments’ in the form of hormone therapy and surgery on children at age 11 or younger. There are even allegations that some of these clinics perform these treatments without conducting thorough mental health assessments beforehand, or even bypassing certain parental consent. Ten states have now restricted these treatments for children including eight states that ban this treatment for children outright. Are you aware of any medical facilities conducting pediatric ‘gender affirming treatment’ that either received HHS grants or Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement?”

Becerra: Congresswoman, there are a number of facilities that could receive funding from HHS so long as it’s a federally prescribed service and so therefore, we would make sure that they are using the monies appropriately.

Van Duyne: So Mr. Secretary, can you confirm that of these facilities — none of them are using a dime of federal taxpayer dollars to provide pediatric ‘gender affirming treatments’ to children?”

Becerra: Congresswoman, those facilities are under law required to make sure that you’re using any federally provided money in the appropriate way…”

Van Duyne: So are they or are they not providing that service?”

Becerra: Now, you’re asking me about every facility in the country, I can tell you that CMS has an obligation to to make sure that we’re doing oversight. If you help us with our budget, we will do as much as we can.”

HHS Secretary Becerra Ignores How Biden’s Budget Puts Budget Gimmicks Over Seniors

As Chairman Jason Smith noted, the President’s budget puts budget gimmicks over beneficiaries. The budget increases taxes on small businesses by $650 billion, which the President claims will add 25 years of solvency to the Medicare program, but those same dollars are used towards “deficit reduction.” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) followed up on the question, and Secretary Becerra refused to address the issue of double counting funding:

Smucker: Is it true that the President’s budget counts savings from potential drug pricing reforms towards both deficit reduction and then also injecting funds into the Medicare hospital trust fund?

Becerra: The President’s budget, because it reduces deficits over the course of the next ten years, will be good for America and our economy, at the same time the President’s budget will strengthen the medicare program without cutting benefits…

Smucker: It really sounds like a budget gimmick when you’re counting both the same cuts as deficit reduction and also injecting funds into the Trust Fund.

HHS Secretary Becerra “Unaware” Obamacare Subsidies Going to the Wealthy

President Biden’s signature piece of legislation, the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” raided Medicare funds to pay for billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to wealthy households. In response to a question from Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Secretary Becerra claimed ignorance when it comes to Affordable Care Act subsidies being directed to households making up to $600,000 despite the Kaiser Family Foundation confirming these households have become eligible under the bill.

Rep. Arrington: “I was very concerned about the expansion of Obamacare subsidies in the IRA. About $65 billion worth. And now the President’s proposal proposes about $185 billion in more expansions… We’re expanding subsidies to people who already have insurance. The IRA only covered 1.7 million people who were uninsured, the rest of the folks that were covered – some of which were making 200 to 300 thousand dollars – already had insurance.”

Secretary Becerra: “I know nowhere where anyone has ever mentioned that someone making $600,000 would qualify for Affordable Care Act coverage with subsidies.”