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Walden Remarks at Subcommittee Markup focused on Ending Surprise Billing, Improving Public Health, and Reauthorizing Health Programs


WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following opening remarks today at a Subcommittee on Health markup of legislation aimed to improve public health and reauthorize health programs.

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Chairwoman Eshoo and Republican Leader Burgess, for holding this markup today.  I’m pleased at the bipartisan progress we’ve made on the policies under consideration today.

First, we will be marking up a package of several public health related measures as well as a number of Medicare policies and extenders.

The Reauthorizing and Extending America’s Community Health, or REACH Act, provides for a four-year extension of funding for critically-important public health programs including the Special Diabetes Programs, the Personal Responsibility Program, the Sexual Risk Avoidance Education Program, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, two workforce programs – the National Health Service Corps and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which place qualified providers to some of the most underserved areas in the nation – and Community Health Centers. These health centers are prevention and public health in action, often serving as the main provider of care. In my district alone, there are 12 federally-qualified health center organizations, with 83 delivery sites leveraging over $50 million in federal dollars in order to serve over 271,000 patients.

On the Medicare front, this package includes the HEARTS Act, championed by former Representative Sam Johnson which would protect severely wounded veterans from facing a Medicare Part B premium penalty if they are able to rejoin the workforce.  Also, included is a policy championed by Dr. Bucshon and Mr. Rush to improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer to assure providers and patients are being informed correctly. I will also note the extension of the Independence at Home project championed by Dr. Burgess and Representative Dingell.

This package also includes a small but important Medicare fix that I’ve heard about from patients firsthand. I met with a young man named Archer, who relied on a complex power wheelchair for his daily life because of his cerebral palsy. I was thrilled to tell him last year that, with Congress’s support, access to chairs like his would be maintained. This Committee has led on this issue working to fix the issue for power chairs, passing a solution to this problem on the Floor last year, and today we continue to show our commitment through inclusion of this policy.

Finally, our amendment to the base package will address the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) cuts for the next two years. This two-year window will give us time to figure out how to best update the DSH formula and address the cuts moving forward.

We are also marking up two additional health workforce bills: H.R. 718, the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Representatives David Joyce and our fellow E&C Member Doris Matsui as well as H.R. 2781, the EMPOWER for Health Act, which reauthorizes Title VII health professions workforce programs. I’d like to thank our E&C colleagues Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Dr. Burgess for leading this important initiative.

We are also marking up four bipartisan bills that reauthorize important discretionary public health programs that the subcommittee reviewed last month: H.R. 1058, the Autism CARES Act, introduced by Representatives Chris Smith and Mike Doyle; H.R. 2507, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, introduced by Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mike Simpson, Katherine Clark, and Jaime Herrera Beutler; H.R. 776, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Program Reauthorization Act, introduced by Representatives Peter King and Kathy Castor;  and finally, we’ll markup H.R. 2035, the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act, authored by Representatives Jim Langevin and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. This program is very important to me because in 1997 my home state of Oregon became the first state in the nation to create a Lifespan Respite Program to provide relief to family caregivers.

We also will markup H.R. 3631 which will provide updated funding for the territories’ Medicaid programs to ensure they can continue to provide the care their constituents need. The program integrity measures included will also ensure that this enhanced federal funding will be going to the people who need it most.

As if that weren’t enough, will be marking up a package of transparency bills. I believe the health care sector needs a lot more transparency but we also have to be careful to avoid unintended consequences.  After a lot of work, I feel this package is worthy of support and I thank the Chair for the process and I look forward to a unanimous vote.

Finally, we will be marking up the No Surprises Act, which I am proud to have introduced along with Chairman Pallone.  We’ve all heard the stories from our constituents. Patients who follow the rules, pay their premiums, and then through no fault of their own, following an emergency situation or surgery get a surprise bill in the mail which they have no way of paying. Well, the bill title says it all. We want to protect patients and families from surprise medical bills and the crippling financial debt that comes with them.  Keeping that goal in mind is key as we move this legislation forward and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do just that.

In closing, let me once again thank Chairwoman Eshoo and Dr. Burgess for their work moving these bills closer to becoming law.

Thank you, and I yield back.

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