Department of Health&Human Services

By Karlea and Taylor


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. It manages the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, runs Social Security, and has many different agencies within the department that help it carry out its duties. For example, HHS' National Institutes of Health comprise the world's largest medical research center, and the Food and Drug Administration regulates products that account for some 25 cents for every dollar spent by Americans.


The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to enhance the health and well-being of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.


The Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) was created under President Eisenhower and established on April 11, 1953. It was made to serve as the nations agency for protecting the health of all Americans, and providing essential human services. In 1979, the Department of Education Organization Act was signed into law, providing for a separate Department of Education. After separating from the Department of Education, HEW became the Department of Health and Human Services, officially becoming a department on May 4, 1980.


Sylvia Mathews Burwell was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of HHS on June 9, 2014. Secretary Burwell has led large and complex organizations across the public and private sectors, being highly qualified for the job. She served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), oversaw the development of the President’s Second-Term Management Agenda, was President of the Walmart Foundation in Bentonville, Arkansas, and was President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, where she spent 10 years working on some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from vaccinations to children’s health to agricultural development. Also, during the Clinton Administration, Burwell served as Deputy Director of OMB, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury and Staff Director of the National Economic Council.

For her new job as secretary, she is concerned with health matters. She is now a member of the President's cabinet where she will inform him on matters with her deaprtment. Sylvia is often referred to as the Health, Education, Labor, Pensions Committee, and the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid.

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Having some 250 separate programs, the Department of Health and Human Services has the largest budget among all the federal departments. Its budget is exceeded only by the United States itself and Germany. The budget accounts for roughly 40 percent of all United States federal government spending.
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The Health and Human Services Department wants to fix one of the Affordable Care Act's most difficult problems. The issue arises when people automatically renew coverage they've purchased through Obamacare's insurance exchanges. Many people who automatically renew their coverage are at risk for especially large premium hikes, some of which might not become apparent until tax season. HHS said it's considering new policies for auto-renewal, to help consumers easily keep their coverage while attempting to protect them from major premium hikes. The department is trying their best to keep people covered and make it easier to renew a plan. Consumers who bought a plan for 2014 and don't make any changes during the current open-enrollment period will be automatically renewed in the plan they already have.To tackle this problem, HHS is considering offering a variety of new options when people sign up for the first time.


The federal government could be doing more to achieve the goals of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and other food-safety efforts, according to a 46 page report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The amount of food-safety oversight reported by the federal government is varied between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The GAO report suggests that USDA and FDA need to better coordinate on a vision of a federal food-safety culture. In 2011, GAO suggested that the White House Office of Management and Budget develop a federal performance plan for food safety. Without such a plan, GAO stated that it’s difficult for Congress and regulators to achieve long-term goals on food safety, and food-safety efforts by the federal government aren’t transparent from the public’s perspective.