WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a Full Committee hearing on Department of Health and Human Services’ Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request.
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Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Today our Committee is honored to welcome Secretary Alex Azar to testify on President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposals for the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Secretary Azar, congratulations on your recent confirmation and thank you for being here today. We know you are only two weeks into this job and are still reviewing the effects of the recent reforms and caps adjustments included in last week’s Bipartisan Budget Act. We look forward to your testimony.
“Over the past year, our Committee has been working to improve, strengthen, and streamline health care and welfare programs under our jurisdiction.
“In health care, we have taken action to cut needless red tape that makes it more difficult for providers to deliver high-quality care to their patients.
“We recently advanced targeted reforms to improve Medicare for the American people, continuing the drive to strengthen quality and care coordination.
“And our Committee played a first-hand role in developing comprehensive legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“With the American Health Care Act that was passed by the House last May, we delivered market-oriented solutions that would truly increase flexibility, reduce costs, and return control of health care to the American people.
“While this legislation has stalled in the Senate, Congress has continued to deliver relief from Obamacare – including repealing the harmful effects of the individual mandate and the Independent Payment Advisory Board. We also took action to prevent several damaging health care taxes from going into effect.
“When it comes to the welfare and anti-poverty programs under our jurisdiction, we have taken significant actions to strengthen families and communities, and help more Americans move themselves out of poverty and into prosperity.
“We have advanced legislation to improve America’s child welfare system so that more children can grow up in a safe home surrounded by a stable family.
“We reauthorized and strengthened the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program – an evidence-based program that provides real help to families in at-risk communities as they strive to build better lives.
“And we have passed numerous bills to help more Americans get back to work. Several of these utilize the partnership and expertise of our local job creators to increase opportunities and on-the-job training for American workers.
“I’m pleased that many of these important health care and welfare policies were signed into law as part of the Balanced Budget Act. But our Committee is not going to stop here.
“Many Americans – including many of my constituents in Texas – are still struggling to access high-quality health care at an affordable price.
“Too many people across the nation are seeing their families torn apart by the opioid crisis.
“And too many Americans remain out of work – stuck on the sidelines of our economy, while employers struggle to fill job openings.
“This very issue was just reinforced by a new small business survey from the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Of all the small business owners who responded, over one-fifth cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their most important business problem. That was a larger percentage than any other issue in the survey.
“We have to find a way to bridge this divide. I’m convinced the best way to do that is by expecting and rewarding work in our welfare programs. We are pleased to see this same approach reflected in the President’s budget request for HHS.
“On health care, our Committee has developed consensus solutions and we are eager to work with the Trump Administration to build on them wherever possible.
“This includes taking action to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, which I am also pleased to see is a priority in President Trump’s budget.
“We know the Medicare Part D program has delivered good results for seniors and American families. We want to improve the program and expand access to affordable prescription drugs by working with HHS and the White House on a market-oriented approach that does not shift costs onto the backs of taxpayers.
“I believe the best path forward to help the American people is to continue to emphasize competition, innovation, and individual choice rather than top-down mandates that interfere with efficiency and affordability.
Secretary Azar, our nation faces a number of significant challenges in making our health care and welfare systems work better for the American people.
“Building off our Committee’s successful efforts and the family-focused priorities outlined in the President’s budget, I’m confident we can work together to advance solutions that improve lives.
“Mr. Secretary, thank you again for being here today. We look forward to your testimony.”