During Questioning from Daines, HHS Secretary Refuses to Disavow Biden Medicare Tax Hypocrisy

U.S. SENATE—U.S. Senator Steve Daines at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra about President Biden’s FY24 budget. Secretary Becerra refused to disavow President Biden’s hypocrisy for dodging $500,000 in Medicare taxes. Daines also questioned the secretary on violence against crisis pregnancy centers and churches as well as potential cuts to Medicare Advantage.

On the President’s Hypocritical Medicare Tax Increases:

Senator Daines: “Mr. Secretary, the President’s proposed budget raises Medicare taxes because the President claims to care about the solvency of the Medicare program and that the wealthy should pay their fair share. However, there’s mounting speculation, and this is as reported in the Wall Street Journal that according to his own tax returns, the President improperly classified the money he made on book deals and speaking events, allowing him to dodge over $500,000 in Medicare taxes. This is, again, according to the Wall Street Journal. How can the President propose tax increases on Americans and call for the wealthy to pay their fair share when he potentially owes a half a million dollars in taxes to the Medicare program?”

Secretary Becerra: “Senator, let me respond on the Medicare program. The President’s budget would make sure that not just for today’s seniors that they would get the benefits they expected when they paid into the Medicare program for decades, but it actually now makes it clear that moving forward to the next generation, that they would receive the same level of benefits. There would be no cuts. And that’s the beauty of the President’s proposal. But he figured out a way to do that.”

Senator Daines: “The question is, don’t you think this pledge to protect America’s seniors might ring a bit hollow in light of the President’s own hypocrisy of dodging $500,000 in Medicare taxes?”

Secretary Becerra: “My suspicion, Senator, is that the President would challenge the way you’ve described his circumstance.”

Click HERE to watch and download the exchange.

On Violence Against Pregnancy Crisis Centers and Churches:

Senator Daines: “Mr. Secretary, there are several concerning proposals in this budget, including yet again, the omission of the Hyde Amendment to allow for taxpayer-funded abortions. It’s clear the administration has no intention of protecting the precious lives of the unborn. In fact, since the Dobbs decision was first leaked in May of last year, over 80, 80 pregnancy resource centers and pro-life groups have been attacked and vandalized, as have hundreds of churches that support the pro-life cause, some even in my home state of Montana. Mr. Secretary, given the continued assaults against pregnancy centers and churches, would you publicly condemn this violence? If you want to do it right here, I’d be happy to hear it.”

Secretary Becerra: “Senator, I don’t believe anyone here would condone violence against any American, whatever the sort. And certainly, I would hope that we could all work together to prevent any American from being harmed simply because they are either trying to exercise their rights or receive services they might need. So, I would love to join you in sending a message to all Americans, please respect people’s rights and also make sure that we’re not abridging people’s rights.”

Senator Daines: “Would you condemn this violence?”

Secretary Becerra: “I would condemn any sort of violence.”

Click HERE to watch and download the exchange.

On Potential Cuts to Medicare Advantage:

Senator Daines: “As you are aware, over 30 million seniors and people with disabilities in this country enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans, including one quarter of Montana’s seniors. Due to the added choice and control it offers beneficiaries. Rural states like Montana face unique challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining physicians. Oftentimes we’re a long ways away from larger communities and the changes to the CMS HCC model in the proposed rate notice will further jeopardize Montana’s access to care. My question is this what data can you provide that might show that the current rate notice will not impede access to care in rural and underserved areas?”

Secretary Becerra: “Senator, thank you for the question, because it is very important the rate notice actually provides a greater level of funding than last year. And what we do is we try to make sure that it is funding that goes for a particular service and not to line the pocket of a middle person in the process. And what I will say to you, especially because of the rural communities that you represent, we need to make sure every dollar that the Medicare program puts out for Medicare recipients gets to service a Medicare recipient. And what we’re finding is that too often programs are gaming the system. And for example, as you heard earlier, some of the plans are claiming that a Medicare beneficiary is sicker than what the person may be. As a result of upcoming that person. You get more reimbursement even though you may not provide the care that a sick person under those circumstances would need. But what I will tell you is that at the end of the day, whatever we have done with this rate. Notice it does not cut any benefit provided by Medicare. And in fact, it actually provides more resources to those who provide services under Medicare itself.”

Click HERE to watch and download the exchange.

Contact: Matt Lloyd, Rachel DumkeBlake Kernen