Today, the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), held a hearing with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to review President Trump’s budget proposals for policies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. Committee Members and Secretary Azar discussed how both Congress and the Administration can work together to improve our nation’s health care system, strengthen families and communities, help more Americans get back to work, and combat the opioid epidemic.
Chairman Brady highlighted at the start of today’s hearing many of the actions the Committee has taken to make sure programs are working efficiently and effectively:
“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.
“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.
Moving forward, Chairman Brady added:
“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.
“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.”
Secretary Azar shared the Committee’s commitment to strengthen and modernize our nation’s welfare and health care systems. The Secretary stated in his testimony on the President’s budget proposals for HHS:
“The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services is to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people. President Trump and all of us at HHS take that charge seriously.
“Across all of HHS’s priorities, the Budget makes clear that business-as-usual will not suffice, and that the substantial investments made every year at HHS ought to be allocated with efficiency and toward programs that work.”
Republican Members emphasized shared goals with Secretary Azar on ways we can work together this year to help patients and families across the country.
IMPROVING OUR NATION’S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
The hearing made clear that Ways and Means Members and the Administration are committed to improving our country’s health care systems through:
Deliver market-oriented solutions to drive down the cost of and increase the access to quality health care:
“The Affordable Care Act remains in place. Congressional Republicans …we’re going to continue to look for targeted ways to increase market stability, to allow more choice for families, and provide relief for Americans who have seen their premiums double and their out-of-pocket costs skyrocket under the Affordable Care Act.”
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX):
“Obamacare included an effective ban on the expansion of physician-owned hospitals, as well as a ban on the construction of new hospitals. What this means is that Obamacare prevents some of our best hospitals from expanding to better serve our communities … and I believe that’s wrong.”
Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC):
“Last year … HHS put out a report that said the average premium [increase] under Obamacare set from 2014 to 2017 … was 105%. …the truth is the average person cannot afford health care under the “un”-Affordable Care Act.”
Make Medicare improvements and provide regulatory relief:
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chairman of the Health Subcommittee:
“The fraud and erroneous payment rate is unacceptable. … This is going to take executive leadership …and I encourage you to be tenacious and I think you will find willing partners here on a bipartisan basis to join with you on a legislative point of view to get this done.”
Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL):
“We continue to be impressed with this Administration’s fight against unnecessary and burdensome regulations in the Medicare space. As we move towards a more data-centric health care model, challenges in the transition from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement continues to be filled with regulatory challenges for physicians.”
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX):
“The assurance I always give [my constituents], is that level of care is going to continue, that the Medicare system will stay solvent, and the federal government, through innovation, will – with less money – achieve the same levels of care that they’re receiving now.”
MAKING SURE OUR NATION’S WELFARE PROGRAMS ARE WORKING FOR ALL AMERICANS
HHS and the Committee also expressed dedication to pursuing common-sense solutions through legislative and executive action to strengthen families and communities and help more Americans get back to work:
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL):
“I have been fortunate to work on this committee with Dr. Davis on legislation called Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act. Essentially, what we are trying to do is encourage people to move from many of the government assistance programs we have into the workforce; to become empowered, become independent, and achieve their own success, whatever that happens to be.”
PROTECTING FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES FROM THE OPIOID CRISIS
Consistently throughout the hearing, Members and Secretary Azar made clear that it is beyond crucial for Washington to roll up its sleeves and work together in order to solve the opioid epidemic:
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN):
“More Americans are now dying from drug overdoses than at the height of the HIV epidemic over 20 years ago, and opioid abuse is the main reason why. Obviously, as the new Secretary over at HHS now you’re helping lead the government’s efforts to stop the spread of opioid addiction – it’s an enormous challenge. … I would encourage you to prioritize non-opioid alternatives for providers to help treat patients who are suffering from chronic and acute pain.”
Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH):
“I’m pleased to see the Department’s budget reflect a significant focus on tackling the opioid epidemic. This epidemic has ravaged my state. The Ohio Department of Health reported that in 2016, 3,600 Ohioans died as a result of an opioid overdose. It’s encouraging to see the Administration is partnering with state and local governments in an effort to put an end to this crisis.”
Chairman Brady closed the hearing by saying:
“Mr. Secretary, your focus and priorities on affordable and quality health care, making sure programs like Medicare work better and last longer, and addressing the opioid crisis are right on target.”
CLICK HERE to learn more about today’s hearing.