HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday to testify about the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget, but instead spent the majority of her time fielding questions about the healthcare reform law.
Reform tops budget at House hearing
The change in focus was hardly a surprise, given this was Sebelius' first appearance before a Republican-led House committee in the 112th Congress, which has sought to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the committee asked Sebelius to address a host of questions about provisions in the law, the sustainable growth-rate formula for physicians, Medicare Advantage, the concerns of small businesses that must comply with the law, and the addition of millions of Medicaid enrollees at a time when state budgets are already severely strained.
The first question for the former Kansas governor and state insurance commissioner—who submitted 10 pages of written testimony highlighting the budget's implications for HHS—came from the committee's chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who connected the hearing's premise to last year's law by asking for specific details about the cost of the state health insurance exchanges established in the law. “It's a 10-year budget and certainly you expect the exchanges to be running,” Camp said. “What is the cost?”
“The exchange subsidies haven't started yet,” Sebelius said. “They don't start until 2012. We have had some planning grants that have gone to states,” she said, adding that some 48 states have received $1 million each for this purpose, and that HHS announced today another $241 million to several states so they can design and implement the information technology infrastructure needed to operate the exchanges.
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