Margaret Wood Hassan

02/13/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/13/2020 18:05

Senator Hassan Presses HHS Secretary on Proposed Cuts to Medicaid, Efforts to Eliminate Pre-Existing Conditions Protections at Senate Finance Committee Hearing

February 13, 2020

To watch the Senator's questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON - At a Senate Finance Committee hearing today with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about the Administration's proposed budget, Senator Hassan pressed Secretary Azar on the impact that the Administration's proposed cut of nearly $1 trillion to Medicaid would have on New Hampshire. The Senator also questioned Secretary Azar on the Administration's efforts to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

'This Committee has passed bipartisan legislation addressing the high cost of prescription drugs, and Senator Cassidy and I have been working with our colleagues on the HELP Committee to end the practice of surprise medical bills,' said Senator Hassan. 'The Administration's focus should be on working with us to get those bills across the finish line and bring relief to patients and families, not on cutting Medicare and Medicaid.'

Senator Hassan shared the devastating impact that the Administration's proposed budget that would cut almost $1 trillion from Medicaid could have on New Hampshire. She highlighted the story of Ashley Raymond from Enfield, New Hampshire: '[Ashley] started using opioids at age 14, and was unable to access treatment until getting coverage through Medicaid. I met Ashley last year when I visited Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's Moms in Recovery program for pregnant or parenting moms grappling with substance use disorder, where Ashley is a client. Without Medicaid, she would be unable to afford her treatment, or her prescription medication.'

When Secretary Azar failed to address Senator Hassan's question about why the Administration is proposing the Medicaid cuts, Senator Hassan pressed Secretary Azar, saying, 'How does an almost $1 trillion cut square with our understanding that Medicaid saves dollars and saveslives?' Senator Hassan continued, 'Because according to the [Congressional Budget Office] your proposed cuts would cause states to start the process of ending their Medicaid expansion programs, which would put 17 million Americans at risk of losing coverage, including 57,000 people in New Hampshire.'

Senator Hassan then addressed the importance of protecting access to health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions, asking Secretary Azar why the Administration continues to push a lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. 'In response to Senator Carper and Senator Menendez, you said that those [pre-existing condition] protections were somehow meaningless. I will tell you: To the people in my state who have pre-existing conditions who can now get health care and don't face bankruptcy if they get sick, this is not meaningless, and this is not abstract.'

In addition, Senator Hassan raised the recent settlement with an electronic health records vendor that was paid by Purdue Pharma to display inaccurate data to providers so that they would unknowingly overprescribe opioids. Senator Hassan asked Secretary Azar what his agency is doing to prevent situations like this from happening again, and Secretary Azar committed to looking into this issue more and working with Senator Hassan on it.

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