May 14, 2021
Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on FY 2022 health and human services budget
On May 12, the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing entitled “The Fiscal Year 2022 HHS Budget,” featuring testimony from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. Democrats on the committee applauded the administration’s budget request, including its focus on building up public health infrastructure, investing in mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, advancing translational research, focusing on issues of equity and social determinants of health (SDOH), and committing to addressing climate change as a public health issue, among other items. Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) called the request a “breath of fresh air” following the “massive cuts” proposed to vital health programs under the Trump administration. Democrats also applauded the administration’s efforts to make permanent enhanced subsidies on the individual market and review policies that undermine patient protections, urged Becerra to ensure drug manufacturers and pharmacies were following the law under the 340B program, discussed the need to remove additional barriers to SUD treatment, and more.
Committee Republicans, on the other hand, pushed back on the administration’s request, with Subcommittee Chairman Guthrie (R-KY) saying he was “alarmed to see the amount of spending.” Republicans on the committee also expressed concern about the administration’s support of H.R. 3, the Democrats proposals to lower drug prices through Medicare negotiation, with Rep. Guthrie and others pushing him to move forward with the bipartisan proposals contained in H.R. 19. Republicans also criticized recent movements by the administration to support waiving intellectual property (IP) protections for the COVID-19 vaccine, expressed concern about the influx of children at the border in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities and their treatment, and urged the Secretary to comply with statutory protections against partial birth abortion. Reps. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) also pushed back on the administration’s rescinding of Texas’s 1115 waiver after its approval by the Trump administration.
Committee members also took the chance to ask Secretary Becerra about other planned actions and those underway at Health and Human Services (HHS). Secretary Becerra assured the committee that there is an “all-hand-on-deck” approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes a robust testing strategic and effort to reach hard-to-reach populations with the COVID-19 vaccine following a plateau in vaccinations. He also said that the administration is committed to buy American when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) and items for the strategic national stockpile (SNS). Secretary Becerra also told the committee that there is an estimated $25 billion remaining in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF), in addition to $8 billion in funding for rural providers, and that they will ensure providers who need the funding will get it in a transparent process. He committed as well to follow Congressional intent in creating regulations for addressing surprise medical billing and noted support for removing barriers to telehealth.
Additional information is available in the attached Tax Alert.
Energy and Commerce HHS budget