(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired a hearing of the Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee focused on President Biden’s budget proposal for the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I’m pleased to say this budget represents a world of change from the last few years on health care, and a roadmap for progress for the years to come,” said Senator Murray.
In her opening remarks, Senator Murray praised the budget for suggesting bold investments to tackle public health crises—including maternal mortality, mental health and substance use disorders, and health inequities. She also highlighted the budget’s large proposed investments in the Title X family planning program, which help women get quality affordable care, child care and early education programs, and support programs for survivors of domestic violence. She also expressed her support for the budget’s proposal to repeal the Hyde amendment which makes it harder for women to exercise their right to an abortion.
“I always say a budget is a reflection of your values. And all in all—this budget paints a clear, encouraging picture of President Biden’s values on health care,” Senator Murray said in her remarks. It shows that he values public health, science, equity, women, children, families and patients. And that he believes health care must truly be a right in this country—not a privilege.”
The hearing included testimony from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. The Committee has previously held hearings on President Biden’s budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
“Secretary Becerra, I’m pleased to say this budget represents a world of change from the last few years on health care, and a roadmap for progress for the years to come.
“It proposes increasing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget by nearly a quarter.
“Which—as we discussed in our hearing with Director Walensky—will not only help see our nation through this pandemic, but help us rebuild our public health system and better prepare for the next one.
“It also proposes serious investments to tackle other ongoing public health crises.
“Health care providers across my state have reported a sharp uptick in youth mental health emergencies during this pandemic.
“And the national suicide rate has been climbing for years.
“This budget builds on the resources we provided for mental health and substance use services in our COVID-19 bills with an additional $9.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—an increase of $3.7 billion over Fiscal Year 2021 levels.
“Washington state also saw drug overdoses increase by 38 percent over the first half of 2020—and our nation saw a record breaking number of overdose deaths last year.
“President Biden is proposing a historic investment of $10.7 billion, across HHS programs, to end the opioid epidemic.
“And he is proposing we continue the progress we’ve seen toward ending another epidemic, by investing $670 million in the HIV/AIDS elimination initiative.
“And to aid the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s, long term COVID-19, and countless other diseases, President Biden is calling for the largest budget increase for the National Institutes of Health in the Agency’s history.
“In the fight against systemic racism, he has proposed new investments across the Department to reduce health disparities.
“And after years of relentless attacks on women’s health care and reproductive rights, President Biden is charting a clear path in a new direction—one that puts women’s health first, and puts patients, not politicians, in charge of their care decisions.
“I am pleased to see this budget call for $340 million dollars for the Title X family planning program—which helps so many patients, particularly women of color, get birth control, cancer screenings, STD screenings, and other essential care.
“This funding will build on the Administration’s recent progress to restore the Title X family planning program with a new proposed rule.
“The budget would also eliminate the Hyde amendment, which is a critical step toward ensuring every person is trusted to make their own individual choices about their life and future based on their own values—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.
“I recognize that’s an area of strong disagreement among some members of this committee, but for too long, Hyde has made abortion accessible only to those with means—while women of color, and women who are paid low incomes, struggle to get care.
“This budget also takes other important steps to prioritize women’s health.
“Our maternal death rate is the highest in the developed world and two in three of those deaths is preventable, the death rate for rural mothers is 50 percent higher, and Black and Native women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women.
“This budget would invest $220 million to combat our maternal mortality crisis.
“Domestic violence is another longstanding and urgent problem —and one made more challenging by a pandemic that makes it even harder for people to get away from their abusers.
“This budget proposes doubling federal funding for programs that provide shelter and support for survivors of domestic violence.
“We’ve also seen throughout this pandemic how the child care crisis has grown worse, been particularly hard on women, and hardest of all on women of color and women who are paid low wages.
“This budget acknowledges the importance of investing in a bright future for every child in our nation, and proposes to increase funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants by $1.5 billion—in addition to the bold investments proposed in the American Families Plan, and provide an increase of over $1 billion for Head Start and Preschool Development Grants.
It also acknowledges our moral obligation to provide relief to some of the world’s most “vulnerable populations, including making sure the children in our nation’s custody are treated with decency, humanity, and kindness—by calling for $1 billion in funding for refugee programs, and $3.3 billion for the Unaccompanied Children program which has been stretched thin by this pandemic.
“These funds will help ensure children in HHS custody are quickly, and safely placed in appropriate homes, provide care and services for them while they are in HHS custody, and provide social and legal services after they leave HHS custody.
“Secretary Becerra, I look forward to hearing more from you on how the Department is prioritizing the health and wellbeing of these children—and how this funding will help that work.
“I always say a budget is a reflection of your values. And all in all—this budget paints a clear, encouraging picture of President Biden’s values on health care. It shows he values public health, science, equity, women, children, families and critically, the health and wellbeing of every single American.
“And that he believes health care must truly be a right in this country—not a privilege.
“I look forward to working with him, and with Secretary Becerra and my Senate colleagues, to pass investments like those outlined in this budget into law to take bold steps to lower health care costs and expand coverage and to apply lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now I’ll turn it over to Senator Blunt for his remarks.”