Statement by
Michael O. Leavitt
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The President's FY 2007 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services

The Committee on Budget
United States Senate

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Senator Conrad, and Members of the Committee. I am honored to be here today to present to you the President's FY 2007 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Over the past five years, the Department of Health and Human Services has worked to make America healthier and safer. Today, we look forward to building on that record of achievement. For that is what budgets are investments in the future. The President and I are setting out a hopeful agenda for the upcoming fiscal year, one that strengthens America against potential threats, heeds the call of compassion, follows wise fiscal stewardship and advances our Nation's health.

In his January 31st State of the Union Address, the President stressed that keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. I believe that the President's FY 2007 budget takes important strides forward on national priorities while keeping us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. It protects the health of Americans against the threats of both bioterrorism and a possible influenza pandemic; provides care for those most in need; protects life, family and human dignity; enhances the long-term health of our citizens; and improves the human condition around the world. I would like to quickly highlight some key points of this budget.

We are proposing new initiatives, such as expanded Health Information Technology and domestic HIV/AIDS testing and treatment that hold the promise for improving health care for all Americans. We are continuing funding for high-performing Presidential initiatives, including Health Centers, Access to Recovery, bioterrorism and pandemic influenza; and we are also maintaining effective programs such as Indian Health Services, Head Start, and NIH medical research.

We are a nation at war. That must not be forgotten. We have seen the harm that can be caused by a single anthrax-laced letter and we must be ready to respond to a similar emergency or something even worse. To this end, the President's budget calls for a four percent increase in bioterrorism spending in FY 2007. That will bring the total budget up to $4.4 billion, an increase of $178 million over last year's level.

This increase will enable us to accomplish a number of important tasks. We will improve our medical surge capacity; increase the medicines and supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile; support a mass casualty care initiative; and promote the advanced development of biodefense countermeasures through NIH to a stage of development so they can be considered for procurement under Project BioShield.

We must also continue to prepare against a possible pandemic influenza outbreak. This budget includes a $2.3 billion allowance for the second year of the President's Pandemic Influenza plan. These funds will enable us to meet several important goals, including providing pandemic influenza vaccine to every man, woman and child within six months of detection of sustained human-to-human transmission of a bird flu virus; ensuring access to enough antiviral treatment courses sufficient for 25 percent of the U.S. population; and enhancing Federal, state and local as well as international public health infrastructure and preparedness.

The President's FY 2007 budget also provides more than $350 million for important ongoing pandemic influenza activities such as safeguarding the Nation's food supply (FDA), global disease surveillance (CDC), and accelerating the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics (NIH).

The budget includes a new initiative of $188 million to fight HIV/AIDS. These funds support the objective of testing for three million additional Americans for HIV/AIDS and providing treatment for those people who are on state waiting lists for AIDS medicine. This initiative will enhance ongoing efforts through HHS that total $16.7 billion for HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment this year.

The budget maintains the President's commitment to the doubling of NIH, and includes important cross-cutting initiatives that will move us forward in our battle to treat and prevent disease $49 million for the Genes, Environment and Health Initiative and $113 million for the Director's Roadmap. In addition, it contains an additional $10 million for the Food and Drug Administration to lead the way forward in the area of personalized medicine and improved drug safety.

One of the most important themes in our budget is that it increases funding for initiatives that are designed to enhance the health of Americans for a long time to come. For instance, the President's budget calls for an increase of nearly $60 million in the Health Information Technology Initiative. Among other things, these funds support the development of electronic health records (to help meet President Bush's goal for most Americans to have interoperable electronic health records by 2014); consumer empowerment; chronic care management; and Biosurveillance.

The Budget also includes several initiatives to protect life, family and human dignity. These include, for example, $100 million in competitive matching grants to States for family formation and healthy marriage activities in TANF. And it promotes independence and choice for individuals through vouchers that increase access to substance abuse treatment.

In the area of entitlements programs, I want to begin by congratulating you and other Members of Congress for having successfully enacted many needed reforms by passing the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). DRA supports our commitment to sustainable growth rates in our important Medicare and Medicaid programs. It also strengthens the Child Support Enforcement program.

The Deficit Reduction Act also achieves the notable accomplishment of reauthorizing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which has operated under a series of short-term extensions since the program expired in September 2002.

Medicaid has a compassionate goal to which we are committed. Part of our obligation to the beneficiaries of this program is ensuring it remains available well into the future to provide the high-quality care they deserve. Last year when I made my statement before this Committee, I said that the growth in Medicaid spending is unsustainable. With its action on many of our proposals from last year in the Deficit Reduction Act, the Congress has made Medicaid a more sustainable program while improving care for beneficiaries. The President's Budget proposals build on the DRA and include a modest number of legislative proposals which improve care and will save $1.5 billion over five years in Medicaid and S-CHIP and several administrative proposals saving $12.2 billion over five years.

This Administration has also pursued a steady course toward Medicare modernization. In just the past three years, we have brought Medicare into the 21st century by adding a prescription drug benefit and offering beneficiaries more health plan choices.

Medicare's new prescription drug benefit provides seniors and people with disabilities with comprehensive prescription drug coverage, the most significant improvement to senior health care in 40 years. Millions of seniors and people with disabilities are already using this benefit to save money, stay healthy, and gain peace of mind. According to CMS' Office of the Actuary, Medicare's drug coverage will have significantly lower premiums and lower costs to federal taxpayers and states, as a result of stronger than expected competition in the prescription drug market. Moreover, beneficiary premiums are now expected to average $25 a month down from the $37 projected in last July's budget estimates. The Federal government is now projected to spend about 20 percent less per person in 2006 and, over the next five years, payments are projected to be more than ten percent lower than first estimated. So taxpayers will see significant savings. And state contributions for a portion of Medicare drug costs for beneficiaries who are in both Medicaid and Medicare will be about 25 percent lower over the next decade. All these savings result from lower expected costs per beneficiary; projected enrollment in the drug benefit has not changed significantly.

Our work to modernize Medicare is not done. Rapid growth in Medicare spending over the long-term will place a substantial burden on future budgets and the economy. The President's FY 2007 Budget includes a package of proposals that will save $36 billion over 5 years and continue Medicare's steady course toward financial security, higher quality, and greater efficiency.

The bulk of these Medicare savings will come from proposals to adjust yearly payment updates for providers in an effort to recognize and encourage greater productivity. These proposals are consistent with the most recent recommendations of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. To ensure more appropriate Medicare payments, the Budget proposes changes to wheelchair and oxygen reimbursement, phase-out of bad debt payments, enhancing Medicare Secondary Payer provisions, and expanding competitive bidding to laboratory services. Building on initial steps in the Medicare Modernization Act, the Budget proposes to broaden the application of reduced premium subsidies for higher income beneficiaries. Finally, the President's Budget proposes to strengthen the Medicare Modernization Act provision that requires Trustees to issue a warning if the share of Medicare funded by general revenue exceeds 45 percent. The Budget would add a failsafe mechanism to protect Medicare's finances in the event that action is not taken to address the Trustees' warning. If legislation to address the Trustees' warning is not enacted, the Budget proposes to require automatic across-the-board cuts in Medicare payments. The Administration's proposal would ensure that action is taken to improve Medicare's sustainability.

President Bush proposes total outlays of nearly $700 billion for Health and Human Services. That is an increase of more than $58 billion from 2006, or more than 9.1 percent.

While overall spending will increase, HHS will also make its contribution to keeping America competitive. To meet the President's goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, we are decreasing HHS discretionary spending by about $1.5 billion in the next fiscal year.

I recognize that every program is important to someone. But we had to make hard choices about well-intentioned programs. I understand that reasonable people can come to different conclusions about which programs are essential and which ones are not. That has been true with every budget I've ever been involved with. It remains true today. There is a tendency to assume that any reduction reflects a lack of caring. But cutting a program does not imply an absence of compassion. When there are fewer resources available, someone has to decide that it is better to do one thing rather than another, or to put more resources toward one goal instead of another.

Government is very good at working toward some goals, but it is less efficient at pursuing others. Our budget reflects the areas that have the highest pay-off potential.

To meet our goals, we have reduced or eliminated funding for programs whose purposes are duplicative of those addressed in other agencies. One example of this is Rural Health where we have proposed to reduce this program in the Health Resources and Services Administration, given that HHS administers 225 health and social services programs that provide resources to rural areas. In addition, the Medicare Modernization Act contained several provisions to support rural health, including increased spending in rural America by $25 billion over ten years. For example, it increases Medicare Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) payments to 101 percent of costs and broadens eligibility criteria for CAHs. Moreover, recognizing that Congress adopted many of our saving proposals last year, we are continuing to make performance-based reductions.

Our programs can work even more effectively than they do today. We expect to be held accountable for spending the taxpayers' money more efficiently and effectively every year. To assist you, the Administration launched ExpectMore.gov, a website that provides candid information about programs that are successful and programs that fall short, and in both situations, what they are doing to improve their performance next year. I encourage the Members of this Committee and those interested in our programs to visit ExpectMore.gov, see how we are doing, and hold us accountable for improving.

President Bush and I believe that America's best days are still before her. We are confident that we can continue to help Americans become healthier and more hopeful, live longer and better lives. Our FY 2007 budget is forward-looking and reflects that hopeful outlook.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I will be happy to answer your questions.

Last Revised: March 2, 2006