Chairman Yarmuth Opening Statement at Hearing on HHS 2020 Budget

Mar 26, 2019

Washington, D.C.— Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing on President Trump’s 2020 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with Eric Hargan, Deputy Secretary of HHS. Remarks as prepared are below:

This hearing will come to order. I would like to welcome Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan -- thank you for joining us.

Today, we will discuss the President’s 2020 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services and its impact on American families.

There are many concerning parts of the Administration’s proposal, but the budget for HHS is particularly troubling because the line between massive funding cuts and severe consequences for American families…between policy changes and life or death outcomes, is so direct. 

The Trump budget cuts more than $12.1 billion from HHS’ discretionary budget…$4.5 billion from NIH which includes research on the prevention, treatment, and care of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and nearly every other disease or disorder facing Americans. It embraces austerity level spending caps, and the resulting cuts to health care investments, even though these caps have been repeatedly rejected by Congress on a bipartisan basis.

The budget also cuts $1.4 trillion from mandatory health care spending, including Medicare and Medicaid, which are the only sources of health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

It repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with an inferior plan that would leave millions of families without meaningful insurance, while failing to continue guaranteed protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

It ends the Medicaid expansion under ACA, terminating health coverage for millions more. In my home state of Kentucky, with total population of just over 4 million, nearly half of a million people gained health care coverage thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. All this before the Administration’s abhorrent decision last night to ask the 5th Circuit to completely invalidate the Affordable Care Act, making it crystal clear to the American public that this President has zero interest in protecting their health care in any form.

The budget also converts base Medicaid funding into a block grant or per-capita cap. This will force states to eliminate or drastically reduce services for low-income children, people with disabilities, and seniors -- or raise billions of dollars to cover the loss of federal resources, which we all know states don’t have. 

In addition, the budget requires all states to implement work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, putting yet another barrier between Americans and quality health care. In Arkansas, which implemented the first work requirement in the country last year, more than 16,000 people have already lost their health insurance with no evidence that they found new employment.  Expanding this policy nationwide would undoubtedly result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans losing their health care coverage.

Deputy Secretary Hargan, it is clear that this budget jeopardizes the health care security of millions of Americans and their families.  So it is hard for me and my Democratic colleagues to understand how that meets HHS’ mission to “enhance the health and well-being of all Americans.”  Given the severity of the funding cuts and the extreme nature of the policy changes, this seems much more like an irresponsible way of offsetting our Republican colleagues’ deficit-financed tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations than a true budget you or Secretary Azar would have crafted for your agency to succeed. I hope to discuss that further today.

There are some other areas of the budget that don’t add up either– where the message doesn’t match the math. For example, the budget includes a $291 million investment in HIV/AIDS, but cuts the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is responsible for most HIV/AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health, by $769 million. The budget provides an additional $50 million for pediatric cancer research, but cuts funding for the National Cancer Institute by $897 million. The budget requests $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response Grants, but it cuts Medicaid – the source of coverage for 4 in 10 adults with opioid addiction – by $1.5 trillion. When you compare these small funding increases to the huge cuts they are paired with, it’s not hard to see them for what they are -- token investments designed to get a good headline. If there is another explanation Deputy Secretary Hargan we would welcome it. 

I know my Democratic colleagues have other questions about the choices made in this budget and the resulting consequences…about promises made by the President that are broken in this document. We want to know more.  

So once again, thank you Deputy Secretary Hargan for being here today. We look forward to your testimony.