President Joe Biden’s budget requested a 23% funding increase for HHS Friday and urged Congress to take action on high drug costs while expanding and improving health coverage.
The budget request reiterates Biden’s calls on Congress to pass legislation allowing the federal government to negotiate for lower prices on drugs covered by Medicare, reducing deductibles in ACA plans, improving Medicare benefits to include dental, hearing and vision, creating a public option, lowering the Medicare eligibility age and closing the Medicaid coverage gap in non-expansion states.
The request doesn’t specify how much those policies would cost or how to pay for it. The president’s budget is mostly a messaging document that Congress is unlikely to pass in full. But it lays out his priorities for his time in office.
Overall, Biden is asking for substantial increases in health spending, a departure from the four years of the Trump administration which sought to cut health programs.
Under the Biden budget request, HHS would get $134 billion in discretionary funding, a 23% increase over what Congress approved last year.
“The increased investment supports families in areas such as behavioral health (mental health and substance use), maternal health, emerging health threats, science, data and research, tribal health, early child care and learning, and child welfare,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday.
“To build back a prosperous America, we need a healthy America, and President Biden’s budget builds on that vision while investing in the many programs housed at HHS to save lives.”
Biden is recommending funding increases to several healthcare programs including ones focused on rural health, maternal and child health, mental health, HIV/AIDS and family planning. It aims to put HHS on better footing for the next pandemic, recommending $905 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile, a $200 million increase over what Congress approved last year.
The Hospital Preparedness Program, which helps providers prepare for emergencies, would get $292 million under the Biden proposal, an increase of $11 million from what Congress approved last year.
HHS would receive an additional $17 million to “improve operations and oversight” of the 340B program, a $7 million increase over what Congress approved last year.
Health workforce programs would get $1.3 billion under the Biden budget, including funding boosts for the National Health Service Corps, diversity training programs, behavioral health workforce development programs and $330 million for Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education.
The budget request includes several proposals Biden already introduced in his so-called jobs and families plans, including permanently extending ACA subsidies to middle-income earners and spending $400 billion to expand access to home-and community-based services and raise wages benefits for caretakers.
Biden also reiterated his calls for Congress to appropriate $6.5 billion to fund a new health research agency that would focus on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.
Other items in his budget request that were already announced last month including $8.7 billion in funding for the CDC, an increase of $1.6 billion over what Congress approved last year, which would mark the largest funding increase for the agency in nearly two decades.
The increase would include funding for the CDC’s Social Determinants of Health program to improve health equity and data collection.
Biden also requested $10.7 billion to address the opioid epidemic, an increase of $4 billion from what Congress approved last year.
Biden requested Congress double the amount it spends on the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to $1.6 billion, citing COVID-19’s impact on mental health.
Biden’s budget proposal also hints at changing Medicaid payments to insurers and providers.
“Evidence shows that we can reform Medicare payments to insurers and certain providers to reduce overpayments and strengthen incentives to deliver value-based care, extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund, lowering premiums for beneficiaries and reducing federal costs,” the budget request reads.
Biden also recommended funding of several programs that address social determinants of health and violence in communities and homes.
NIH would receive additional funding to study the health impacts of climate change, part of HHS’ efforts to advance health equity.