WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 15, 2016
From welfare and health care to early childhood development and support services for older Americans, the policies your department oversees affect the lives of millions of Americans. Conversations like this one are vitally important as we work to ensure the department is acting in the best interests of taxpayers and those in need. As we examine what programs and policies are working, and which ones are in need of improvement, I hope there are a number of areas where we can find common ground.
Of course, there are also areas where we will ultimately agree to disagree, and perhaps the most prominent example is the president’s health care law. As has been the case for nearly six years, this flawed law continues to hurt working families, students, and small businesses. It’s still depressing hours and wages for low-income workers, still making it harder for individuals to receive the care they need, and still driving up health care costs.
One Emory University professor recently wrote that his family’s health-insurance premium is now their biggest expense – even greater than their mortgage. Before the health care law went into effect, this man was able to cover his entire family of four for less than $13,000. Now, the cost of insuring just him and his wife is nearly $28,000. That’s right – twice the cost to cover half as many people. In fact, paying more for less is becoming a hallmark of the health care law.
Over the years, Republicans have put forward a number of health care reform ideas, ones that would expand access to affordable care and lead to a more patient-centered health care system. We will continue to do so, because we firmly believe the president’s health care law is fatally flawed and unsustainable, and more importantly, because we believe the American people deserve better.
Again, I suspect we will have to agree to disagree, but as I mentioned, there are areas where I am hopeful we can find common ground.
Head Start, for example, currently supports nearly one million children at a cost of more than $9 billion annually. It’s an important program for many low-income families. However, concerns persist that it’s not providing children with long-term results.
We both agree changes need to be made, but so far, we have different ideas on what reform should look like. The department is in the process of fundamentally transforming Head Start through regulations that will have serious consequences for the vulnerable families this important program serves. We, on the other hand, have outlined a number of key principles that we believe will strengthen the program based on feedback we collected from parents and providers. I look forward to discussing where we might be able to find middle ground and work together so that these children can have the solid foundation they need to succeed in school and in life.
I’m also hopeful that we can work together to ensure changes to the Preschool Development Grants Program are implemented as Congress intended. The Every Student Succeeds Act
reformed the program to help states streamline and strengthen early learning efforts. To accomplish this goal, Congress moved the program from the Department of Education to HHS, which already oversees the bulk of early learning programs. As you take on this responsibility, Secretary Burwell, please know we intend to stay engaged with the department to ensure a successful transition.
Finally, the department is also responsible for helping states to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect, specifically those outlined in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
or CAPTA. As I’m sure you’re aware, this law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems – if
they make a number of assurances concerning their child welfare policies. It’s come to our attention that some states are making these assurances without putting the necessary policies in place. Yet, not a single state is being denied federal funds.
A Reuters’ investigation recently revealed the shocking and deadly consequences of this neglect and cast serious doubts as to whether basic requirements of the law are being met and enforced. In light of this tragic report, we wrote to you to better understand the department’s process in reviewing and approving state plans under CAPTA, and I’d like to continue that discussion today. It’s clear that the current system is failing some of our country’s most vulnerable children and families, and something has to change.
As you can see, we have quite a bit to cover today. These and other issues are vitally important to the men and women we serve, and we have a responsibility to ensure they are serving those individuals in the best way possible.
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