March 14,2024

Crapo: HHS Budget Fails to Deliver on Key Promises for Americans

Washington, D.C.--At a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2025 Health and Human Services (HHS) budget with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) expressed concern that the President’s budget makes no mention of bipartisan legislation that would bring down health care costs for seniors with chronic conditions, as well as generate billions of dollars in taxpayer savings. 

Crapo also highlighted the consequences Americans experience from the drug price controls included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and pressed Secretary Becerra to take action on expiring telehealth coverage that has proven critical for seniors and working families across Idaho and the rest of the country.

Click HERE to read Senator Crapo’s opening statement.

hhs budget question

Click HERE to watch Senator Crapo Question Secretary Becerra.

At the hearing, Crapo was able to secure commitments from the Secretary to support congressional efforts to expeditiously enact much-needed pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform; work on a bipartisan basis to improve Medicare Part D; and expand telehealth flexibility for seniors and working families.

On bipartisan legislation that would lower consumer costs, protect small businesses and save taxpayer dollars:

Last year, this Committee voted nearly unanimously to pass two bipartisan pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform bills.  Together, these provisions would generate billions in taxpayer savings, in addition to bringing down costs for seniors with chronic conditions.

These bipartisan bills reflect, by far, the most comprehensive and consensus-driven solution to a range of challenges raised by Members in both chambers and across the political spectrum.  That said, this legislation and this issue is absent, as I see it, in the President’s budget, sending a troubling signal to patients, community pharmacies and frontline health care providers across the country. 

I’m asking now that the President step up and use the bully pulpit to get this legislation moved in this Congress. I’d ask you to please take that request back to him.

See also: Crapo, Wyden Call for Swift Passage of Bipartisan PBM Reforms

On the consequences that have resulted from drug price controls in the Inflation Reduction Act:

When the IRA passed nearly two years ago, Mr. Secretary, your Department praised the law unconditionally.  As implementation proceeds, however, American seniors have experienced the consequences of the law. 

A growing number of clinical trials for medical breakthroughs have been canceled, particularly for rare disease drugs.  Part D plans exclude more and more medications from coverage—and subject others to prior authorization and step therapy, delaying critically needed care.  Copays continue to skyrocket, often tied to inflated sticker prices, which exclude any rebates or discounts. 

In short, the system’s flaws have gotten worse, not better. 

Secretary Becerra, can you commit to working with Congress—on a bipartisan basis—to remedy these issues and improve the Part D program, rather than prioritizing IRA expansion, which remains both partisan and unrealistic? . . . I’m asking you to help us find some bipartisan solutions to move forward.

On what actions are being taken to extend important telehealth coverage:

Telehealth coverage has proven critical for seniors and working families across Idaho and the rest of the country.  Unfortunately, without additional action, Medicare beneficiaries and Americans with high-deductible health plans risk losing access to telehealth services overnight at the end of this year.  Patients and frontline providers currently face profound uncertainty as we move closer to this coverage cliff.

Secretary Becerra, what actions does your Department, and its sub-agencies, plan to take in order to avert this unacceptable outcome, as well as to reassure the millions of Americans who rely on telehealth for core medical care every day? . . . We understand that part of that ball is in our court, and it really helps when we have a mutual effort to try to get those kinds of resolutions to the finish line, so thank you for your attention to that.