Washington, DC — Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Republican Leader of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, gave the below opening remarks at today’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health markup on ten health care bills.
Dr. Burgess’ Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Chairwoman Eshoo. It is critical that we are here today marking up numerous extender and reauthorization policies so that we maximize the chance of them becoming law prior to their expiration in September. As I have said before, reauthorizing these programs in a timely manner is imperative. Once these bills advance through the full Energy and Commerce Committee, I hope that we can, in a bipartisan fashion, communicate to the Speaker and our respective leadership just how vital these reauthorizations are.
Community Health Centers, Teaching Health Centers, the Special Diabetes Programs, and Family-to-Family Health Information Centers are bipartisan programs that make a real impact in providing access to quality health care for Americans. In fact, just yesterday I met with two JDRF Children’s Congress delegates from North Texas who are living proof of how important the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes is, and I know that advocates have been making their voices heard throughout this process. I look forward to advancing these public health reauthorizations to the full committee.
I appreciate the inclusion of the EMPOWER for Health Act, which will reauthorize Title VII physician and other health professions workforce funding. When I was the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee last Congress, we moved both Title VII and Title VIII reauthorizations through the committee and the House. Unfortunately, the Senate did not take up either of our bills. I hope that the Senate will show interest in reauthorizing these vital programs this year.
The Medicare extenders package before us today also includes numerous priorities that will benefit Medicare patients across our nation. I especially appreciate the inclusion of the three-year extension of the Independence at Home Demonstration, which I have long championed with Rep. Debbie Dingell. I welcome this opportunity to work with her once again on this priority.
Following up on the groundwork Republicans laid in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 in delaying Disproportionate Share Hospital cuts, one amendment before us today includes a buy-out of the DSH cuts for two years. My fellow Texan, Rep. Pete Olson, introduced a similar bill, and our local hospitals in Texas and across the country will benefit greatly from this policy.
We also have authorizations of Medicaid funding for the United States territories, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. As we heard from witnesses at our hearing, we know the American citizens who live in the territories disproportionately rely on the Medicaid program. But as I noted in our hearing, Congress needs to know how these dollars are being spent – so that we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. I also welcomed when we heard that territories could implement a number of program integrity measures to ensure protection against fraud and abuse. This bill would require territories to implement certain tools to do just that. Given the disappointing news out of Puerto Rico yesterday, I think we can all agree more can be done, and I look forward to the conversations our staff are already having to put additional measures in place before full committee.
This committee also has put a lot of effort into building off of a transparency package that moved through the Ways and Means Committee. Members on both sides of the dais exhibited interest in improving upon the legislation to make it workable and protect against unintended consequences. I appreciate the willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to get this bill to where it is today. I can say that the majority listened to our concerns and I support the bill we are considering and urge all Members to do so. I want to thank the Chairs and their staff for taking this issue through regular order and doing the hard work to get us to where we are today.
Lastly, we are considering the NO SURPRISES Act, which would outlaw surprise, or out-of-network, billing. This has been a bipartisan effort from the start, and I hope that we can achieve a consensus by the end of this process that will lead to better results for patients and their wallets. I want to thank Chairman Pallone for introducing the language we are going to be considering today. I thank the White House for making this a priority, and I think there is a broad consensus – between the House, Senate, and White House – that our goal is to remove the patient from any dispute that may occur. I appreciate the good-faith effort that has been made to work toward a compromise thus far, and I hope that such efforts will continue following this subcommittee markup.
I am glad that we have achieved bipartisan agreements on the must-pass priorities before us this morning. Thank you, Madam Chair, I yield back.