Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies: “Review of the FY2021 Budget Request for HHS”
Tuesday, February 25, 2020: The Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the Senate Committee on Appropriations held a hearing to discuss HHS’s budget request for fiscal year 2021. Alex Azar, secretary of HHS, served as witness. Find more details on the hearing here.
Why this is important: HHS Secretary Azar fielded a bipartisan concern regarding the spread of coronavirus in every hearing he attended this week in Congress. In all separate budget hearings, Azar told members of Congress that the spread of coronavirus is contained at the moment, comments that seem to contradict the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) warnings to prepare for a possible pandemic. Azar told members, however, that more cases of the coronavirus are likely, requesting $2.5 billion in funding to address the outbreak. Azar said the funding would help the U.S. expand surveillance systems for the fast-spreading virus, support state and local governments, help development of vaccines and therapies and expand stockpiles of protective equipment, such as masks.
House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies: “Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Budget Request for FY 2021”
Wednesday, February 26, 2020: The Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing to discuss HHS’s budget request for fiscal year 2021. Alex Azar, secretary of HHS, served as witness. Find more details on the hearing here.
Why this is important: Facing criticism on the HHS response to the coronavirus outbreak thus far, HHS Secretary Azar said that the risk right now is very low to Americans, and that from a public health perspective, there is technically a state of containment in the U.S. Members also expressed concern over the president’s budget cutting the Medicaid program by $1.5 trillion.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health: “The Fiscal Year 2021 HHS Budget and Oversight of the Coronavirus Outbreak”
Wednesday, February 26, 2020: The Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing to address the recent concerns surrounding the international spread of coronavirus and cover the HHS budget request for FY 2021. HHS Secretary Alex Azar gave a witness testimony. Find more details on the hearing here.
Why this is important: Health subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) told the committee and HHS Secretary Azar that the Trump administration’s lack of coordination for the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response is on full display. Eshoo reiterated that contradicting statements are being released from the administration and that as such, financial markets are reacting to this lack of trusted information.
House Democrats Warn Trump Administration of Potential COVID-19 Drug Price Gouging
On Feb. 26, 46 House Democrats cautioned the Trump administration against awarding companies exclusive licenses for coronavirus drugs (COVID-19) invented with taxpayer money, adding that the administration must ensure a coronavirus vaccine is affordable and accessible. During a House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee hearing the same day, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar refused to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would for sure be affordable for everyone. Azar said prices of COVID vaccines and treatments are not up to the government to set because the government cannot quickly develop those products without the help of private drug manufacturers.
Senate Democrats Make a Request for $8.5B in Emergency Coronavirus Funds
On Feb. 26, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released an appropriations request to provide $8.5 billion in emergency money for fighting the coronavirus. The plan provides $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, $2 billion to reimburse state and local governments, $1 billion for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) emergency reserve fund and $1 billion for vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Find the request here.
Read more on healthcare policy on the McGuireWoods Consulting website.