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On the Hill: Health Spending Debate; Requests for Information

Following President Joe Biden’s March 9 release of the fiscal year 2024 federal budget, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra will be on the Hill this week and next to defend the proposal’s health-related spending.

Becerra will appear in a Senate Committee on Finance hearing, “The President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Health and Human Services Budget,” Wednesday, March 22; and in a March 29 hearing by the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He is expected to face calls by Republican lawmakers to decrease discretionary spending on health-related programs.

Other notable upcoming hearings include the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee’s “Lowering Unaffordable Costs: Examining Transparency and Competition in Health Care,” on Tuesday, March 28, at 1 pm ET; and the House Committee on Ways and Means’ Health Subcommittee hearing, “Health Subcommittee Hearing on Why Health Care is Unaffordable: The Fallout of Democrats’ Inflation on Patients and Small Businesses,” on Thursday, March 23, at 2 pm ET. It is expected these hearings could include scrutiny of hospital pricing practices and pricing transparency.

Other Hill Activity

America’s Essential Hospitals this week responded to a request for information (RFI) from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) regarding health care workforce shortages. The association also will respond to a HELP Committee RFI on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. Responses to that RFI will inform the committee’s work on reauthorizing the act, which will expire Sept. 30 without congressional action.

Also on America’s Essential Hospitals’ legislative affairs agenda is participation in the newly formed Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) community working group, which will meet periodically over the course of the year. Margaret French, the association’s senior legislative affairs manager and Essential Hospitals Political Action Committee director, will lead the group’s work on “Title X, Addressing Social Determinants and Improving Environmental Justice,” an area of focus for many member hospitals.

On the Schedule This Week

The Senate will convene today and the House will convene for the remainder of the week on Wednesday, March 22.

On Wednesday, at 10 am ET, the HELP Committee will hold a hearing, “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?” On Thursday, March 23, at 10 am ET, the House Committee on Appropriations will hold a public witness hearing, “Public Witness Day — Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.”

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