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Secretary Price Supports Budget Cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services

Posted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 2:07 PM

On Wednesday, March 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D. defended the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget in front of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

“Our goal is to fashion a budget that focuses on the things that work, that tries to decrease the areas where there are either duplications or redundancies or waste, and whether indeed we can get a larger return for the American taxpayer,” Price told the committee.

During the hearing, lawmakers in both parties questioned President Trump's proposed $6 billion cut to research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-04), the Chairman of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, said he is "deeply concerned." Price backed up the proposed cuts saying that NIH could increase "efficiencies" and reduce "duplication."

However, Cole stated that maintaining “the ability to respond to terrorist attacks and respond to unexpected things like Ebola and Zika are extraordinarily important.”

“You are far more likely to die from a pandemic than from a terrorist attack,” Cole added.

Secretary Price’s comments were made after the Trump administration planned an additional $1.2 billion cut to the NIH for the current fiscal year, in addition to a suggested $5.8 billion cut for 2018.

The hearing brought a lot of tension once Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) suspected Price of seeking to dismantle the Department of Health and Human Services.

Democrats also fought back on whether Price is dedicated to maintaining both the letter and the spirit of the law, or if he will use his discretion to undermine regulations.

"I am committed to fulfilling the oath that I took, which is upholding the law of the land," Price said in response to questions about how he would administer the ACA, though he was non-committal on promoting Obamacare enrollment and enforcing some of its regulations.

Secretary Price has been harsh of the individual mandate in the ACA and the Trump administration signed an executive order in January 2017 indicating that it may not issue the tax penalty on people who don’t purchase health insurance.

Democrats were not impressed with Secretary Price’s opinion of the Essential Health Benefits in the ACA. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) asked Price if the Trump administration’s beliefs on maternity care should be a covered benefit under federal law, Price said that “individuals ought to be able to select the kind of coverage they want, not that the government forces them to buy.” Price reiterated his views when Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) questioned him about substance abuse and addiction treatment.

When Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) asked Price if the administration is “planning to narrow the essential benefits that insurers are required to cover,” Price responded that his “goal and mission is to make certain that every American has access to affordable coverage.”

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