The House Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on the Department of Health and Human Services’ fiscal year 2019 budget request, at which HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified. The non-binding budget request proposes hundreds of billions of dollars in reductions to Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, as well as a number of provisions related to drug pricing, opioids and other health-related issues. In his opening remarks, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said the committee has developed “consensus solutions” on health care and is “eager to work with the Trump administration to build on them wherever possible,” including “taking action to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.” Committee members also urged aggressive action to address the opioid crisis, and Democrats criticized the proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) noted that the budget request “cuts more than $200 billion in payments to hospitals,” threatening additional hospital closures and the jobs they provide. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Tom Rice (R-SC) also expressed concern about rural hospital closures. “We have consistently asked rural hospitals to do more with less,” Sewell said. “As a result, 83 rural hospitals have closed since 2010 across the country.”

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