The Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently invited HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify and answer questions regarding the HHS FY 2014 Budget. She outlined many new initiatives in the budget and answered questions about the Affordable Care Act’s implementation set to begin January 1st, 2014.
Hearing Date: April 18, 2013
The Health Subcommittee recently convened to discuss the FY 2014 Budget request for Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the lone witness to testify. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) said in his opening statement that the Affordable Care Act is not working and the ACA needs to be repealed. President Obama’s statement that the ACA would save average American families $2,500 a year was false and instead, individuals and businesses are seeing their premiums go up. In Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) opening statement, he expressed concern with the ACA and wondered why the administration has not given more guidance on the program. He claimed citizens are still unclear on the mandates and regulations required in the legislation and he expected more direction to be given to the public by the White House.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) commended Secretary Sebelius on the massive undertaking HHS has taken on, implementing the ACA. Waxman also reiterated his support for mental health reform.
In her opening statement, the lone witness, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the FY 2014 budget includes proposals that would save an estimated $361.1 billion over 10 years. The budget’s total is $967.3 billion in outlays and $80.1 in discretionary budget authority. The budget supports the new health insurance exchanges or “Marketplaces” that are set to open in January 2014. The budget also supports Mental Health programs with over $1 billion allocated to supporting and encouraging new and existing mental health services. It supports the training of 5,000 new mental health professionals. Also included, are new initiatives for child care and support as well as research initiatives into Alzheimers disease.
In response to questioning, Secretary Sebelius testified:
- Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees (or equivalent of) will not be impacted by the ACA
- Efforts into anti-tobacco programs, chronic illness prevention, and outreach/education will play a role into the success of the ACA
- HHS will use funds from the prevention fund to fund an upcoming advertising campaign supporting the exchanges that are to start enrolling people October 1st
- HHS is committed to finalizing the rules for mental health parity by the end of the year
- The agency is looking forward to working with Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) on exploring ways to regulate the supplement industry
- HHS has not developed a contingency plan in the event young Americans choose to pay the tax penalty instead of enrolling in health insurance exchanges
- Healthcare fraud and abuse is being taken very seriously and a joint effort between Attorney General, Inspector General, and HHS is underway to combat it. Predictive modeling software is being implemented to help curb fraud.
- The HHS is enthusiastic about working with the DoD, NIH, academics, and the private sector on studies of the brain and how injuries and diseases affect it
- Regarding HIV/AIDS, the agency has refocused resources into communities most affected by the disease in hopes of cutting down on the amount of new cases