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2014 HHS Budget Press Conference

Washington, DC
April 10, 2013

Good afternoon.  I’d like to thank you all for joining us as we release our Department’s 2014 budget.  I am glad to be joined here today by HHS’s senior leadership.  The people you see with me represent the tens of thousands of dedicated public servants who work hard every day to execute HHS’s mission of providing essential services and protecting the health of the American people.

The budget we’re announcing today will enable us to carry out that mission effectively in 2014 and beyond.  It supports the goals of the President’s budget by making critical investments to strengthen the middle class, create jobs, and grow the economy.  It ensures that the American people will continue to benefit from the Affordable Care Act.  It provides much-needed support for mental health services, and takes steps to address the ongoing tragedy of gun violence.  It strengthens education for our youngest children to help put them on a path to developing the skills they will need to succeed in a 21st Century economy.  It helps make America a magnet for jobs by securing America’s place as the world leader in science and technology, and supporting the groundbreaking research that will generate the treatments, vaccines, and cures of tomorrow.

And even as it invests in areas that we know are critical to our future prosperity, our budget also contributes to the President’s goal of cutting the deficit in a balanced way.  That means safeguarding every dollar, cutting waste and duplication, and seeking out savings wherever we can, including making some difficult choices we wouldn’t have made at other times.

You’ll have the opportunity to review our entire budget on the HHS website this afternoon.  But I’d like to highlight a few key areas before our senior leaders and I take your questions.

The Affordable Care Act is already making a huge difference in Americans’ lives, and our budget makes sure we can continue to implement the law to give more Americans the security of affordable health coverage.  Open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces begins on October 1st of this year, and coverage will start on January 1st.  This budget supports the operation of the Federally Facilitated Marketplaces, and provides for the assistance and oversight needs of the State-Based and State Partnership Marketplaces as well.  This will ensure that starting next January, Americans in every state have somewhere they can go to get quality health insurance to fit their budget.

Another issue this budget addresses is one that has been on all of our minds recently: mental health services, and the ongoing epidemic of gun violence.  While we know that the vast majority of Americans who struggle with mental illness are not violent, recent tragedies have reminded us of the staggering toll that untreated mental illness takes on our society.

That’s why we’re proposing a major new investment to help ensure that students and young adults get the treatment they need.  We’ll be training 5,000 mental health professionals to join our Behavioral Health Workforce.  We’ll be supporting Project AWARE, an effort to train teachers and other adults to detect and respond to signs of mental illness in young people.  And we’ll be providing support for innovative, state-based strategies that help reach young people with mental health or substance abuse issues.  In addition, new investments are also being proposed for the CDC to research gun violence and develop effective strategies to help prevent future tragedies.

At the same time, we’ll be providing support for 8,000 schools to implement evidence-based practices to promote safer climates.  And we’ll help break cycles of violence in those schools and communities that have been hit hardest by tragedy, by awarding grants to aid in the implementation of proven violence prevention strategies.  All of these measures reflect our commitment to fostering safer, healthier communities for all Americans.

Our budget also supports the President’s call to provide every American child with access to high quality early learning services, so that our children gain the skills they need to do the jobs of tomorrow.  It proposes additional investments in new Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships that will increase the availability of early learning programs that have already demonstrated success to reach infants and toddlers.

We’re also bolstering our commitment to America’s children by providing additional support to raise the quality of child care programs and promote evidence-based home visiting for new parents.  These investments work together with our support of early education initiatives to create long-lasting positive outcomes for families, and provide huge returns on investment.  Children who participate in these programs are more likely to succeed in school and secure good jobs later in life.  And we all benefit from a more productive workforce, lower crime rates, and reduced need for public assistance.

And as we prepare the next generation of Americans to succeed in the 21st Century economy, we’re also making sure America remains a world leader in innovation.  The significant new investments this budget contains for the NIH reflect our commitment to furthering the biomedical research that will help create good new jobs and advance the cause of medical science.

That work will include projects like the human brain mapping initiative the President announced earlier this month—as well as other programs that will spur job growth and drive us towards the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow.  For example, we’ll continue to implement our National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease with $100 million in support.  Ensuring that America continues to lead on science and technology won’t just improve the health of our families.  It will improve our economic health as well.          

Our budget also contributes to the President’s balanced plan to significantly reduce the deficit in the long term.  And that starts with making sure programs like Medicare are put on a stable fiscal trajectory.

Thanks partly to reforms in the Affordable Care Act—including anti-fraud measures and new incentives for doctors to eliminate duplication and waste—Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at a historically low rate of 0.4% in 2012.  This slowdown reflects, in part, the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act's $800 billion in savings provisions that strengthen the Medicare program.

And the President's 2014 budget would achieve even more savings.  For example, the budget will allow Medicare-Medicaid enrollees to get their prescription drugs at the lower Medicaid rates—resulting in savings of more than $120 billion over the next ten years.  In total, the budget would build on the Affordable Care Act by generating an additional $371 billion in Medicare savings over the next decade, reducing the deficit and putting Medicare on sounder financial footing.

Our budget also reflects our commitment to aggressively reducing waste and fraud in all our programs.  We’re proposing an increase in mandatory funding for our Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program—an initiative that last year saved the taxpayers nearly eight dollars for every dollar spent on it.  And we’re investing in additional efforts, including reducing improper Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP payments, and expanding the reach of our Office of Inspector General.

What this all adds up to is a budget that will help HHS to pursue this Administration’s North Star of a thriving middle class.  It’s a budget that promotes job growth and bolsters the programs and investments American families count on to live healthy lives.  And it will keep our economy strong in the years to come, while also helping to bring down the deficit.  I’m sure many of you have questions, and we’re happy to take those now.  Thank you.