Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services’ FY 2019 Budget Request
(As prepared for delivery)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. And welcome Secretary Azar. We look forward to your first testimony before a Congressional Committee in your new role.
My goal as an elected official is to provide the best path possible to opportunity for my constituents. That includes developing policies that help create jobs; deliver high-quality, low-cost health care; and generally help all Americans make a better life for their families.
The budget President Trump has presented goes against those goals. Instead, it would create more obstacles for families to navigate as they try to make ends meet and move up the economic ladder.
Last year, President Trump and the GOP rammed through a $2.3 trillion tax cut for the wealthy and corporations. In his budget, the president now attempts to fill the deficit hole by slashing critical health and family programs instead of building them up to expand middle class opportunities to move ahead.
This budget sabotages health care programs by ripping the rug out from under the middle class and cuts the health care programs these hard-working Americans rely on. Under the Trump budget, millions more Americans will lose their health insurance, and health care costs will increase. The Republican Trump budget attacks pre-existing condition protections by allowing insurance companies to charge more for less coverage or deny coverage altogether. It creates an age tax, where seniors may be charged significantly more due to their age and once again allows women to face discrimination – just for being women. For millions of Americans, this budget would cause their health care premiums to skyrocket.
The Trump budget cuts nearly $1.4 trillion from Medicaid and another half a trillion from Medicare. As more and more Baby Boomers enroll in Medicare, now is the time to strengthen and sustain the program, for example like adding critical benefits such as dental, vision and hearing coverage - not arbitrarily cut it. And the $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid will lead to cuts to health care for children, individuals with disabilities, and people who need long term care. Medicaid is now a middle class benefit—it’s the reason your parents aren’t living in your attic, and is a key component to opioid and mental health treatment programs.
Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs are more important than ever as our nation struggles to find an effective, long-term solution to the opioid crisis. Everyone in this room has a family member or knows someone directly impacted by an opioid or other drug-related disorder. Slashing programs that are designed to help those individuals is simply irresponsible.
Health care is a crucial part of the economy around the United States. In my district alone, hospitals are one of the largest employers. Cuts to health programs would cause significant job loss. This budget cuts more than $200 billion in payments to hospitals, threatening additional closures.
This proposal would dismantle protections for struggling families and supports for Americans getting and keeping good jobs. The Trump budget cuts employment services for job-seekers and employers. It limits access to community colleges for trade-affected workers, and it reduces the number of working families receiving child care assistance in many states.
It makes no additional job training investments for workers who need to upgrade their skills. It slashes Meals on Wheels, child and adult protective services, substance abuse programs, and other key programs by eliminating the Social Services Block Grant. These proposals directly undermine the fight against opioid abuse. It also proposes Congress stop providing guaranteed multi-year funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV), which is currently authorized through 2023.
Instead of focusing on giving big corporations and the wealthy more than $2 trillion in tax breaks, we should be breaking down obstacles so middle-class families can get ahead.