Burwell Defends Obamacare in First Foray With U.S. Congress

President Barack Obama’s choice as the next health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is providing vigorous defense of Obamacare at a congressional hearing today where the health-care overhaul is taking center stage.

“Because of the law, millions of Americans now have new benefits, new protections, and new health coverage,” Burwell, nominated to replace Kathleen Sebelius, said.

Burwell faced Congress for the first time today as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds its confirmation hearing. A hearing of the Finance Committee, which will vote on her nomination, hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The hearing offers Republican senators a fresh, televised opportunity to level attacks on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, and outline possible alternatives. At the same time, Burwell, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, has had experience handling hostile opponents in public.

Burwell said today that Obamacare is reducing federal health-care spending. In response to a question from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts who said that the Congressional Budget Office projects $500 billion decrease in Medicare spending from 2014 to 2020, Burwell said the reduction will be higher.

“For the period of 2014 to 2020 health-care costs by the federal government have decreased by $900 billion over that period,” Burwell said. “Hopefully those are changes that do two things: reduce costs and improve quality. The implementation already of the changes under the Affordable Care Act are reducing the deficit and providing great savings.”