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Analysis

HHS Releases 2020 Budget Ahead of Azar's Grilling on Capitol Hill

By Steven Porter  
   March 11, 2019

The budget proposal includes less discretionary authority and more mandatory funding than last year's proposal.

Health and Human Services released a detailed overview Monday of its fiscal year 2020 budget, as HHS Secretary Alex Azar prepares for a gauntlet of hearings on Capitol Hill this week about the proposal.

Azar will testify Tuesday before the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Wednesday before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, each of which are newly controlled by Democrats itching to show their healthcare policy priorities.

Azar will head to a third budget hearing before the full Republican-controlled Senate Committee on Finance on Thursday.

Related: Military Doctors in Crosshairs of a Budget Battle

The budget proposes $87.1 billion in discretionary authority and $1.2 trillion in mandatory funding. By contrast, the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal sought $95.4 billion in discretionary authority and $1.12 trillion in mandatory funding.

The HHS proposal is a big piece of the Trump administration's total $4.7 trillion budget. The overall plan would increase the federal budget deficit to $1.1 trillion for fiscal year 2020 alone, as The Wall Street Journal 's Kate Davidson reported.

The proposal claims it would eliminate the deficit by 2034, based on the assumption of faster economic growth than many independent forecasters expect, the Journal noted.

The final spending plan must be approved by 60 senators, so the administration's proposal is just the starting point in what could be a long and contentious process between now and the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, especially since Democrats gained control of the House this year.

President Donald Trump has already faced criticism that his budget proposal breaks a campaign promise. Despite saying on the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 election that his administration would make no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, his 2020 budget proposal calls for funding estimated reductions of $800 billion or more from Medicare over the next decade, as CNBC's Jacob Pramuk reported. 

In a statement Monday, Azar highlighted five HHS priorities in the Trump administration's 2020 budget proposal.

"The budget will advance HHS's work on [1] increasing the affordability of individual health insurance, [2] bringing down the price of prescription drugs, [3] transforming our healthcare system into one that pays for value, and [4] combating the opioid crisis," he said. "It also provides historic new funding dedicated to one of the most important public health initiatives undertaken this century: [5] President Trump's plan to end the HIV epidemic in America by 2030."

In an overview of the proposal, Azar noted also that the budget aims to foster healthcare innovation and strengthen services for native Americans while advancing regulatory reform.

Editor's note: This story was updated Tuesday, March 12, 2019, with additional information.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The budget proposes $87.1 billion in discretionary authority for HHS and $1.2 trillion in mandatory funding.

Alex Azar has three hearings this week on Capitol Hill, including two before panels newly controlled by Democrats.

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