Capitol Correspondence - 06.12.17

HHS Secretary Price Testifies to Senate, House Committees on Future of Medicaid and Healthcare

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In a pair of back-to-back hearings held on June 8, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price answered questions on what he sees as the future of healthcare, including the restructuring and refocusing of Medicaid. Price appeared before the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee, in each to discuss the FY2018 budget for HHS that was included in President Trump’s budget request issued several weeks ago. (See WICs article, “President’s FY2018 Budget Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid, Safety Net Programs,” May 25, 2017.)

Price began each hearing by reading nearly identical statements, saying that the President’s budget “does not confuse government spending with government success.” Price said that the government must focus on spending money efficiently and effectively, looking to how successful programs are in accomplishing their goals rather than determining success by the amount of money spent. 

Democrats challenged Price strongly to justify cuts to the Medicaid program that offset tax breaks for wealthy Americans and business interests. Price said repeatedly that the Medicaid program should be funded in a way that directs money to the most vulnerable populations that the program was originally intended to help, rather than to able-bodied working age adults. 

In the Senate hearing, Senator Cassidy (R-LA) spoke in support of per capita caps, saying they are a way to align the incentives between then state and Federal government, a statement that Price agreed with. Senator Isakson (R-GA) talked about the need for states to have flexibility to innovate, which Price agreed with, characterizing that flexibility as a way for states to innovate around HCBS. When asked about the apparent shortfall that will impact state budgets if the Medicaid cuts proposed in the AHCA and the budget go through, Price said he did not think some of the projected shortfalls are accurate. 

Testimony and video of the hearings is available here (Senate) and here (House).