Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra Marks One-Year Anniversary of Biden-Harris Administration
During a press call this morning, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra marked the one-year anniversary of the Biden-Harris Administration and – along with Health Resources Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson – announced new funding to support health care workers who continue to work day in and day out on a shared priority: protecting the health of Americans, particularly as the pandemic persists. The following is an excerpt of the Secretary's opening remarks, and a downloadable snapshot of key achievements from the past year that have helped advance the HHS mission of building a healthier nation*.
Excerpt from Secretary Becerra's Press Call Remarks:
We meet on the one-year anniversary of President Biden's inauguration, and I am deeply proud of the work that the Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have done this first year.
Today, some 210 million people have received two doses of an mRNa COVID-19 vaccine, or one dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. In March 2020, no one was fully vaccinated in this country. In fact, when President Biden took office a year ago, less than one percent of Americans had received any shots for vaccination against COVID-19.
We've invested some $7.3 billion dollars of COVID-19 relief funding specifically for community health centers, which have led the way in administering over 18 million vaccines. We've done that because we know that community health centers serve people in America who are either uninsured or underinsured.
In the year that President Biden has been in office, we have mobilized a network of 17,000+ volunteers, including 1,000 physicians, to boost vaccine confidence. And today, we have reached out in every possible way to Americans. Whether it's through media campaigns and ads or whether it's through the volunteers that we mobilize in this network, we are reaching out to all Americans in all corners of the country.
We know, of course, beating COVID-19 is just one part of our work to build back better and healthier. Today, nearly 5 million people in America have gained access to life-saving health care, thanks to President Biden and the American Rescue Plan.
Over the last year, we rolled out a new national strategy on overdose prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, and prescription drug pricing. We are moving in areas that traditionally have been ignored or rejected by the federal government to try to help not just save lives but prevent harm.
We've worked hard to reduce health care costs, expand enrollment for millions of people, and we are in the process of implementing, as of January 1, prohibitions against surprise medical bills that Americans often face. And we recently rolled out nearly $300 million to help support implementation of a new three-digit dialing code – 988 – for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [coming in July].
…We do this because more Americans need better health care and we want to make sure, based on equity issues, that we reach everyone and not leave anyone behind.
So, we've come a long way since January 2020. And we know we still have work to do. We have work to do because there are people who are working, who are completely exhausted, fatigued. From Seattle to Atlanta and everywhere in between, I've seen first-hand the critical role that our health care workforce plays in serving communities.
I've visited health centers, I've met with doctors, nurses and staff and I've heard their stories and the challenges that they are facing as they help save lives and tackle this pandemic on the frontlines. Just yesterday, I participated in a virtual roundtable with leading health organizations to discuss the provider workforce and pipeline, with an emphasis on the shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As one health care worker summed it up recently, "I am 27 years old and just praying I can get through every shift." And so, to help that 27-year-old health care worker and every other health care worker in America today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that we are awarding $103 million to strengthen long-term efforts to reduce burnout among our health care workforce and to promote mental health and wellness among all of our health care workers.
The funds…come from the American Rescue Plan…and will be dispersed to numerous organizations that oversee evidence-informed programs and practices and training. The focus will be on providers who do service in underserved and rural communities. Today's awards build on some $28.5 million, in again, American Rescue Plan funds, to create accredited primary care residency programs in rural and underserved communities.
This is an effort to be there when Americans need us, but it's also to be there when our health care heroes need us. They're the ones that are coming in every day. They are the first responders, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that not just Americans are healthy, but our American health care workforce remains healthy and resilient.
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