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FY 2011 Budget Press Conference Opening Remarks

February 1, 2010

Good morning, and thanks for joining us.

Today, we’re releasing our 2011 budget. It builds on the themes President Obama laid out in his State of the Union: strengthening security and opportunity for America’s working families, investing to build a foundation for future growth, and bringing a new level of accountability and transparency to government. And it abides by President Obama’s pledge to root out programs that are redundant, obsolete, or ineffective.

Under this budget, we will provide the health and human services that Americans depend on more effectively, slashing waste and focusing programs on results. And we’ll make many of the necessary investments our country has been putting off for years, including investments in fighting health care fraud, strengthening our public health infrastructure, and getting serious about health and wellness.

This budget is a big step toward a healthier, stronger America. If you’re really dedicated, you can go to our website and read the whole thing. But this afternoon, I’m glad to have the chance to share some highlights with you and take some of your questions.

Science First

One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with so many incredible doctors, nurses, scientists, and public policy experts. They’re the ones who drive our department’s decisions, and, today, I’d like to introduce a few of the leaders of the HHS team. They’ll be available for a few questions as part of our formal program today and then will be available immediately following this event if you have any agency-specific questions.

In the first row, please stand as I call your name;

  • My fantastic Deputy Secretary Bill Corr
  • My Chief of Staff Laura Petrou,
  • Assistant Secretary for Administration Ned Holland
  • Assistant Secretary on Aging Kathy Greenlee
  • our Inspector General Dan Levinson
  • Carolyn Clancy Director of the Agency for Health Research and Quality
  • Jeanne Lambrew Director of the Office of Health Reform

And joining me here on the stage, from my left to right,

  • Dr. David Blumenthal National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
  • Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
  • Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health
  • Pam Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Dr. Yvette Roubideaux (pronounced ROO-bih-doh), Director of the Indian Health Service
  • Carmen Nazario, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
  • Dr. Mary Wakefield, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration
  • Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health
  • Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Peggy Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration
  • Cynthia Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at CMS
  • Jonathan Blum, Director of the Center for Medicare Management at CMS and
  • Richard Turman, Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Resource

From day one, President Obama has said we need to put science first. That’s how our department runs. And that’s reflected in our budget. Whether fighting a pandemic, protecting food safety, or transforming the health care system with electronic medical records, the investments we’ve made have been guided by some of the finest scientific and medical experts in the world.

Fighting Waste and Fraud

We’re also guided by a constant vigilance about using taxpayer dollars wisely. At a time when many families are scraping together every last dollar to pay their medical bills, fraud, waste, and abuse in our health care system are unacceptable.

That’s why our budget contains a historic investment in cracking down on the health care fraudsters who steal from taxpayers, endanger patients, and jeopardize Medicaid and Medicare’s future.

This investment will allow us to build on efforts that began last May, when President Obama instructed Attorney General Holder and me to create a new Health Care Fraud Prevention and Action Task Force, known as HEAT for short.

HEAT is an unprecedented partnership that brings together high-level leaders from both departments so that we can share information, spot trends, coordinate strategy, and develop new fraud prevention and prosecution tools.

For example, we have new systems that allow us to identify likely fraud by analyzing suspicious patterns in claims data. This budget sends a clear message to those who commit fraud: stop stealing from seniors and taxpayers, or we’ll put you behind bars.

Quality and Access to Health Care

Last year, almost one year ago, we expanded access to health care to millions of children with the CHIP Reauthorization Act. Thanks to that landmark legislation we have funds to find the estimated five million children who are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid but haven’t signed up, and get them enrolled so they can start getting the health care they need.

We’re investing new funds in what I consider to be the backbone of the American health care system, community health centers. Thanks to this investment, these neighborhood centers will provide high-quality primary care for 20 million people a year – 3 million more than were served in 2008.

On top of that, we have almost $1 billion in funding to strengthen and support our country’s health care workforce. We’re going to use this money to increase the capacity of nursing schools, help more low-income and minority students realize their dreams of becoming doctors, and ensure that America’s seniors can get care when they need it.

Our budget also contains a significant increase in funds for the Indian Health Service as we continue to work to eliminate health disparities. It is the principle that we are trying to establish in our healthcare system - that regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or geography every American deserves high quality and affordable care,

Finally, we’re investing in next-generation health care technologies to help providers raise the quality of care for all Americans. The adoption by doctors and hospitals of electronic health records, reduces medical errors, helps coordinate care and cuts costs, and paperwork.

And we’re going to fund patient-centered research projects, which are going to put the best and most up-to-date information in the hands of doctors and patients when they make important health decisions.

Rebuilding the Public Health Infrastructure

Our budget is based on our growing understanding that health is influenced by many factors outside the doctor’s office. Where you live matters. So does what you eat and drink. Even what you watch on television.

To help more Americans live healthy lifestyles, our budget continues the work of rebuilding our public health infrastructure. What we have today is a sick care system, where we wait until something goes wrong to intervene. We’re trying to build a true health care system that promotes better health all the time.

To do that, our budget creates a new program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will work to reduce the rates of disability and morbidity due to chronic disease in ten of our biggest U.S. cities. This follows a major investment in prevention and wellness in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will support similar programs in communities around the country, and it’s going to allow us to really attack obesity, a problem that costs our health care system almost $150 billion a year.

Our budget also contains a significant increase in funding to help us build a 21st-century food safety system to go with our 21st-century food market, where nearly half our fruit and over three-quarters of our seafood come from overseas. These funds will help us react quickly to and ultimately prevent outbreaks like the tainted salami that was recently recalled.

We’ll be able to expand the efforts of a new Food Safety Working Group that I co-chair with Secretary Vilsack. The additional funding will allow us to update our food safety standards, enhance surveillance and response, and hire 350 additional food inspectors. If you want to see how we’ve already begun our new consumer-based approach to food safety, go to our website, foodsafety.com.

And this budget makes a serious investment in the battle against smoking. After falling for years, the number of Americans who smoke now hovers right around 20 percent. Last year, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration new powers to regulate tobacco. And this budget builds on that progress by providing significant funds for educating our children about the dangers of smoking and new research to help us develop better ways to stop smoking.

Public Health Security

But while we do the steady work of promoting health on a day-to-day basis, strengthening our public health system bit by bit, we must also prepare for public health emergencies, whether their cause is Mother Nature or our fellow man.

Some of our best defenses against these threats are medical countermeasures: the vaccines, treatments, and respirators, among other things, that help reduce the spread of infections, reduce health consequences, and ultimately save lives.

This flu season, we got a wakeup call about the readiness of our countermeasures. Even as our scientists and their private sector partners scrambled to produce a safe, effective vaccine in 6 months – 3 months faster than it usually takes – we saw temporary vaccine shortages because the vaccine grew slowly in chicken eggs, an unpredictable process we’ve used for the last fifty years.

Our budget includes nearly a half-billion dollars to upgrade these countermeasures. Just as important, our budget contains significant funds for the NIH research that produces many of the breakthroughs that make these countermeasures possible.

To focus these investments, I’ve asked my Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dr. Nicole Lurie, who’s here today, to lead a comprehensive review of our entire countermeasure production process from the laboratory to the doctor’s office, and report back by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

We want to have more promising discoveries, more advanced development, more robust manufacturing, better stockpiling, and more effective distribution practices. Our ultimate goal is to have the kind of biodefense system that is so dependable and robust that potential terrorists give up and say, “It’s not worth the effort”, and when Mother Nature strikes we are ready to respond.”

Economic Security

Strengthening America’s health is one-half of our mission, and this budget goes along way toward restoring health security for Americans. But the other half of our mission is providing security and opportunity to America’s working families.

Our future of America rests with our children. So our budget invests in Head Start and Early Head Start, providing enough resources for Head Start to serve 66,000 more young children than it did 2 years ago, nearly doubling the numbers in Early Headstart.

Our budget invests in the President’s Zero to Five Plan, a comprehensive strategy to make sure our kids get all the support they need during the years when we know their brains are doing most of their developing. It provides incentives and relief for parents to cover the cost of child care.

But middle-class families aren’t just taking care their children these days. Often, we’re also dealing with aging parents. Eighty percent of long-term care services are provided by family members, which is great for older Americans to be cared for by loved ones but can be financially and physically exhausting for the caregivers.

Last week during a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, the President and Vice President highlighted several innovative new programs we have developed at HHS through our Administration on Aging. These programs provide relief to family caregivers, whether it’s help with counseling and information about caring for elders, or an adult day care center where they can drop a parent off for the day, or transportation to get a senior to the doctor or a store.

This investment is going to give caregivers relief and help them keep loved ones at home for as long as possible.

Finally, this budget extends the relief we provided last year for states and communities facing devastating budget cuts. This will help states maintain essential supports and services at a time when working Americans need them most.

Conclusion

There is no question that the hard-working people of this country have been tested over the last few years. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama urged Americans to rise to the challenges posed by our current difficulties, and pledged that as a country we would face these challenges together. I believe this budget lives up to that commitment.

We target relief directly to the working Americans who need it most and makes long-overdue investments to strengthen our health care and public health systems, keeping all of us healthy and more secure.

At the same time, we recognize the fiscal challenges facing this nation. We take our responsibility to the American taxpayer seriously. Not only do we attack waste and fraud aggressively, but our leadership team has worked to eliminate programs that sound good on paper but don’t get results.

I want to thank you for being here today. Now the rest of our team and I will be happy to take some of your questions.

Please identify yourself and the outlet you are representing when you ask your question. Remember each of these people I introduced at the beginning of my remarks will be available for more detailed and specific questions about their budgets immediately following our event today.

First question, please.