HHS releases 2020 budget ahead of Azar's grilling on Capitol Hill

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Health and Human Services released a detailed overview March 11 of its fiscal year 2020 budget, as HHS Secretary Alex Azar prepared for a gauntlet of hearings on Capitol Hill about the proposal.

Azar testified March 12 before the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and March 13 before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, each of which are newly controlled by Democrats itching to show their healthcare policy priorities.

Azar headed to a third budget hearing before the full Republican-controlled Senate Committee on Finance on March 14.

The budget proposes $87.1 billion in discretionary authority and $1.2 trillion in mandatory funding. By contrast, the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal sought $95.4 billion in discretionary authority and $1.12 trillion in mandatory funding.

The HHS proposal is a big piece of the Trump administration's total $4.7 trillion budget. The overall plan would increase the federal budget deficit to $1.1 trillion for fiscal year 2020 alone, as The Wall Street Journal 's Kate Davidson reported.

The proposal claims it would eliminate the deficit by 2034, based on the assumption of faster economic growth than many independent forecasters expect, the Journal noted.

The final spending plan must be approved by 60 senators, so the administration's proposal is just the starting point in what could be a long and contentious process between now and the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, especially since Democrats gained control of the House this year.

President Donald Trump has already faced criticism that his budget proposal breaks a campaign promise. Despite saying on the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 election that his administration would make no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, his 2020 budget proposal calls for funding estimated reductions of $800 billion or more from Medicare over the next decade, as CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reported. 

In a statement on March 11, Azar highlighted five HHS priorities in the Trump administration's 2020 budget proposal.

"The budget will advance HHS's work on [1] increasing the affordability of individual health insurance, [2] bringing down the price of prescription drugs, [3] transforming our healthcare system into one that pays for value, and [4] combating the opioid crisis," he said. "It also provides historic new funding dedicated to one of the most important public health initiatives undertaken this century: [5] President Trump's plan to end the HIV epidemic in America by 2030."

In an overview of the proposal, Azar noted also that the budget aims to foster healthcare innovation and strengthen services for native Americans while advancing regulatory reform.


This article originally appeared on HealthLeaders Media.

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