Department of Health and Human Services

At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a 2 percent reduction to Medicare payments accounted for the majority (71 percent) of sequestration reductions. Sequestration also reduced funding for a variety of public health, social services, and research grant programs, according to HHS. HHS reported that it cut administrative and personnel-related activities, such as infrastructure contracts and employee travel, to achieve required reductions without affecting program operations, though the actions varied by HHS operating division. HHS also reported that it used its existing transfer authority to minimize the effect of sequestration on certain programs, such as processing of Medicare appeals. HHS officials told us that data needed to demonstrate the immediate effects of sequestration on agency operations and services to the public were not available as of November 2013 and the longer term effects may be difficult to isolate from other factors.

In May 2014, we reported more in-depth information on planning, implementation and effects of sequestration at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a component within HHS. See GAO, 2013 Sequestration: Selected Federal Agencies Reduced Some Services and Investments, While Taking Short-Term Actions to Mitigate Effects, GAO-14-452 (Washington, D.C.: May 28, 2014).