Testimony from Kathleen Sebelius on Oral Testimony on FY 2015 HHS Budget (As Prepared for Delivery) before Committee on Finance
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Hatch, Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to join you here today.
I want to especially thank the members of this Committee for your commitment to improving Medicare Advantage. Today, over half of all enrollees receive benefits from a 4 or 5 star rated Medicare Advantage plan.
Our Department’s mission is to help our fellow Americans secure the opportunity to live happier, healthier lives – and to reach their fullest potential. Although the hard work of our employees is oftentimes unheralded, their efforts benefit millions of Americans.
Our nation’s seniors – for example – benefit from the hard work of employees at CMS. Our children benefit from ACF-administered initiatives like Head Start. And all of us benefit from SAMHA’s work on mental health and substance use treatment – and from the efforts of employees across all our Department’s operating and staff divisions.
Another area that’s benefitting all Americans is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Even prior to Open Enrollment in the Marketplace, millions of Americans and their families obtained new rights and consumer protections.
During these past six months, millions more have obtained the security and peace-of-mind of affordable health coverage. Many of the people I’ve met have told me that they’ve been able to get covered for the first time in years. Some have gotten covered for the first time in their entire lives.
Last week, we announced that 7.1 million Americans signed up for private insurance through the Marketplace.
As of this week, 400,000 additional Americans have signed up – and we expect that number to continue to grow, as more data comes in.
Between October and the end of February, an additional 3 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid coverage, and a total of 11.7 million people were determined eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.
And we know that if more states move forward with Medicaid expansion, more uninsured Americans will be able to get covered.
Opportunity, Growth, Security
Affordable health coverage, accessible health care, mental health and substance use treatment, food safety, early childhood, health security – all of these issues connect to President Obama’s goals for expanding opportunity, strengthening our security, and growing our economy.
The budget before you would move these priorities forward.
These investments create jobs and strengthen our primary care workforce by expanding the National Health Service Corps.
We add to our mental health workforce by increasing the number of licensed behavior health professionals, peer professionals, and mental health and addiction specialists.
We protect the security of our seniors by investing in Elder Justice.
And we invest in prevention efforts to protect the health of patients in nursing homes, primary care practices, and other health care settings.
The proposed expenditures also advance new approaches to protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable children: those in foster care. We invest in a new $750 million CMS-ACF partnership to encourage the use of evidence-based screening, assessment, and treatment of trauma and mental health disorders – all with the goal of reducing the over prescription of psychotropic medications.
I would like to thank Senator Grassley and other members of this Committee for expressing interest in the Administration’s focus on this area, and I look forward to working with the Committee to address this need.
This budget also strengthens and expands important Birth-to-Kindergarten initiatives with strategic investments in priorities like the Child Care & Development Fund, home visitation and Early Head Start partnerships.
President Obama’s total child care request will enable 1.4 million children to receive assistance.
And if you move forward with the President’s Opportunity Growth & Security Initiative, we will be able to provide 100,000 children with access to high-quality early education – through an expansion of Early Head Start partnerships.
We know that these investments work: They pay dividends throughout a child’s education and development, and they return an estimated $7 of every $1 we invest – there are a lot of traders on Wall Street who would be envious of this sort of return.
In addition to a profound and lasting impact on children, these investments would also save lives. Much of the early learning funding for partnership states is paid for by increasing the tobacco tax, which we know is one of the most effective ways to prevent smoking, especially among kids
More than 3,200 American children will try their first cigarette today (and every day) if we do not act. And each day, 2,100 of our kids and young adults become daily smokers.
It’s no surprise that these early childhood investments have broad bipartisan support from governors, CEOs, leaders in military and law enforcement, parents, and health providers alike,… and our global competitors are financing similar opportunities for their children.
Finally, this budget not only invests, but also saves: We will contribute a net $369 billion toward deficit reduction over the next decade.
When you take all of these factors into account, it is clear that the budget before you is a security budget; an economic growth budget; and an opportunity budget, which puts us on a pathway to a healthier and more prosperous nation.