Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Mathews Burwell testified at a Feb. 26 House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget proposal [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 6].
The budget blueprint includes a number of Medicare proposals of importance to academic medicine including a $16.3 billion reduction in Medicare Indirect Medical Education (IME) payments, a new proposal to equalize Medicare rates for services provided in off-campus hospital outpatient departments (HOPD) and other provider settings totaling $29.5 billion in savings, and a reduction of Medicare bad debt reimbursement saving $31.1 billion over ten years.
In her opening testimony Secretary Burwell outlined the administration’s “critical investments in health care, science and innovation, and human services,” accounting the increase of $4.8 billion in discretionary funding from FY 2015 appropriations as a commitment to “make the investments that are necessary to serve the millions of American people who count on our services every day, while laying the foundation for healthier communities and a stronger economy for the middle class in the years to come.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) expressed his strong concerns with the administration’s proposal to cut IME funding and emphasized the value of academic medical centers stating, “it requires significant funding and time to develop the infrastructure and expertise necessary to ensure quality care is available. How do we ensure stability for these academic medical centers and the patients they serve, if we put Graduate Medical Education funding at risk?”
Secretary Burwell replied, “we believe and hope that our proposal will not do that and meets the objectives of making sure we are training appropriate physicians for both primary care and specialties, when we don’t have as many as we should.”
Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) opened the hearing recognizing the need for collaboration to refine the administration’s budget proposal stating, “if we are going to save and strengthen our safety net programs for the most vulnerable, we have to do better than the President’s budget. Both parties have to work together. You, we, and the President need to work together to save our entitlement programs and make them sustainable.”
Full Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) applauded the administration’s recognition of the importance of research funding in the budget [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 6] stating, “I was pleased to see that the president’s budget included a funding increase of $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Investing in early stage basic research is one of the most promising ways that we can accelerate the discovery of new treatments and cures.”