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According to its website, the Department of Health and Human Services’ stated mission is to “enhance the health and well-being of all 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.”
With a budget of more than $2.9 trillion, HHS is the top spender of federal money and has the dubious distinction of spending nearly $1.2 trillion more than the Department of Defense. With an astronomical budget, HHS has 88,000 employees, compared with the Defense Department’s 3 million.
Considering that the Defense Department’s has a more clearly stated purpose in our Constitution than HHS does and has a fairly significant responsibility in securing freedom and liberty the world over, that’s a bit unnerving.
To advise policymakers on how to make better decisions on the use of HHS’s vast resources and programming, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s recently launched Able Americans effort has undertaken a research project to sort out the programs in each of HHS’s operational divisions charged with serving Americans with disabilities.
Starting late this past spring, our team of researchers conducted deep-dive evaluations of four operational HHS divisions, with a fifth well on its way to being finished.
The data is staggering in its volume and scope. The first finding that alerted our team to a problem was that of 437 individual programs that were analyzed, 91 (more than 20%) were either irrelevant to HHS’s mission or to serving Americans with disabilities, even though they were found through that exact search term.
The next issue that raised itself was the number of broken links on HHS’s own website. The excuse our team was given when asking about these links is that the overall agency website was being updated (or “scrubbed,” as the department’s external affairs office put it), leading to these problematic findings.
Duplicate programs across operational divisions were the third problem that presented itself. Why are duplicates needed? Would it not be more efficient to pull similar programs together under one umbrella?
The resultant cost savings could be applied toward serving more people more efficiently. Perhaps employees could be shared across operational divisions to accomplish this.
The initial touchpoint for most Americans needing HHS’s services is its website, which we have proved is unwieldy, out of date, contains contradictory information and is generally problematic. Only bureaucrats can navigate it, and even they do so with difficulty.
How does that help an average American in need of life-changing information? Living with a disability or chronic condition is challenging enough. Trying to find help from the federal government should not be so difficult.
HHS is supposed to serve and educate Americans. Sadly, it cannot do so effectively with its public-facing side in such disarray. One can only imagine what the behind-the-scenes functions of HHS are like.
This is how our taxes are being spent?
Perhaps it is time not to just reevaluate, but make some specific changes besides the ones already mentioned.
The first thing is establishing a “stakeholder advisory board” for each major operational division made up of people who use the website. Then, supplement the “normal people” with policymakers, educators and recognized authorities in each field who can bring not just an academic lens but also a human touch. It is, after all, the Health and HUMAN Services Department.
Next, have conversations that involve talking and listening and helping all Americans take responsibility for their own health care. This will boost public health morale and help ensure a smoother delivery of services.
HHS is supposed to be all about public health and the best way to serve the public. If functions are duplicated, programs are irrelevant to those who need them, website links are broken or missing, and information is not easily found, then HHS is clearly missing the mark. It is time to end the madness.
Melissa Ortiz serves as the National Center for Public Policy Research’s senior adviser for the Able Americans Project. This first appeared at The Washington Times.
Author: The National Center