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Senate Finance Committee Analyzes HHS Budget

February 17, 2012—Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius testified at a Feb. 13 hearing by the Senate Finance Committee to review the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget proposal.  The hearing took a deeper look into the proposed spending and reductions throughout HHS including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  Several members of the committee focused their questions to the secretary on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) funding, and the National Health Care Workforce Commission that was created as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L.111-148 and P.L.111-152 ) [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 1, 2010].

Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) opened the hearing recapping the successes of the ACA, and asked that HHS “continue to use the tools provided by health reform” to reduce costs in the system; however, he stressed that “[t]o strengthen Medicare, we need to continue lowering costs. We need to spend our precious health care dollars wisely and efficiently.” Ranking Member Hatch disagreed that the president’s budget will lower costs, saying his “budget completely fails to address the gathering storm of our entitlement crisis,” and points out that the budget does not propose a permanent solution to Medicare’s problematic sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

Secretary Sebelius’ testified that the president’s budget “makes investments where they will have the greatest impact,” and will enable HHS to strengthen health care by:

  • Delivering benefits of the Affordable Care Act to the American people;
  • Expanding and improving health insurance coverage;
  • Strengthening the delivery system;
  • Ensuring access to quality care for vulnerable populations;
  • Improving healthcare quality and patient safety; and
  • Investing in innovation.

Committee members also questioned Secretary Sebelius about health care funding, including Senator Pat Robert (R-Kan.) who questioned the cuts to CHGME funding saying the program is “exceedingly important,” and asking how hospitals are expected to produce an adequate workforce without federal support to the program.  The secretary expressed her disappointment that funding “is not where [she] wished it would be, but we’ll continue to work with hospitals to make sure they continue doing the good job they’re doing.” Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) asked about initial funding to the National Workforce Commission, and Secretary Sebelius said that she shared his interest in the challenges our health care workforce faces, and was hopeful that the administration could work with Congress to provide the funding. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told the secretary that he had hoped to see NIH a greater priority for the administration; however, Secretary Sebelius pointed out that a number of agencies have received cuts and NIH has been “held harmless.”


Len Marquez
Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-862-6281


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Jason Kleinman
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Telephone: 202-903-0806