Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar faces three hearings on Capitol Hill this week on the department's proposed $87.1 billion in discretionary spending for 2020, compared to the $95.4 billion put forward in 2019.
Mandatory HHS spending for 2020 is $1.2 billion, compared to $1.1 billion in 2019.
At the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Azar announced two appointments to the Food and Drug Administration as HHS commences a process to identify a new FDA commissioner following the resignation of Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
Dr. Ned Sharpless, the current director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting commissioner for Food and Drugs, Azar said, and NCI's Deputy Director Douglas Lowy will serve as acting director of the Institute.
In 2018, HHS represented the largest discretionary budget of any non-defense department, Azar told the committee.
The budget extends the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund for eight years as the program's budget grows at an annual rate of 6.9 percent.
The budget gives $4.8 billion towards the opioid epidemic, including better access to prevention, treatment and recovery services, for targeting the availability of overdose-reversing drugs and better pain management practices. This includes $1 billion for the State Opioid Response program focused on access to medication-assisted treatment, behavioral support and recovery services.
The budget proposes $291 million for the first year of President Trump's plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, Azar said.
The budget allows states to create personalized healthcare options for insurance, while maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Azar said.
HHS is proposing changes to discourage hospitals from acquiring smaller practices just to charge Medicare more, Azar said.
HHS is addressing overpayments to post-acute care providers and through modernization of Part D, wants to lower seniors out-of-pocket costs and create incentives to lower list prices.
Azar faces a series of budget hearings this week. On Wednesday, he goes before a House committee on Appropriations subcommittee and on Thursday, he heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
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