On Wednesday, March 28th, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on President Biden’s FY24 Budget proposal with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. Although Chairman Jason Smith [R-MO] and Ranking Member Richard Neal [D-MA] raised diverging criticisms, there was bipartisan agreement on preventing “surprise billing,” providing Alzheimer treatments, and holding corporations accountable for migrant child labor.
In his opening statement, Chairman Smith critiqued the President’s budget proposal for changes to Medicare Advantage and plans to increase HHS’s authority over drug pricing. Other Republicans highlighted that Medicare solvency will run out in 2028 and argued that the nation’s debt is the greatest threat to the program. Secretary Becerra responded stating that the President is committed to extending Medicare for the next generation and his proposal lowers the deficit over the next ten years.
Ranking Member Neal applauded the President’s budget for “giving Americans more breathing room while lowering the deficit and putting workers and families over the well-connected.” Other Democrats highlighted the importance of increased investments in mental health, substance use disorder, childcare, and long-term care. Representative Gwen Moore [D-WI] specifically raised concerns about youth transitioning out of foster care. She asked about how HHS will ensure that these young adults know they are still eligible for Medicaid until age 26 under a new rule effective this year. Secretary Becerra recognized that youth with experience in foster care are among the most likely to use the newly created 988 Suicide and Crisis lifeline.
Secretary Becerra’s defended the President’s budget by spotlighting his agency’s successes over the last two years, like overseeing the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history and capping insulin prices at $35 a month. HHS’s vision is to move the country from an “illness care system to a wellness care system” by investing $600 billion in childcare and universal Pre-K, along with increases for community health centers, Title X family planning programs, hunger and nutrition initiatives, and much more. The proposal also covers 200 million Americans excluded from Medicaid by their home states and expands post-partum coverage. In response to recent reports of child migrant labor rising, he emphasized the urgency for Congress to increase ACF funding so his agency can continue to provide Head Start, child care, and refugee centers for unaccompanied children.
By Ava Cloghessy, Policy Intern