On January 21, 1969, the day after President Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated, Robert H. Finch was sworn in as the eighth Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Born in Arizona, Mr. Finch had spent most of his life in California and had served as Lieutenant Governor of that State.
Shortly after assuming office, Secretary Finch emphasized that he would scrutinize Departmental operations and make efficient and effective management of existing programs one of his primary goals.
The Secretary released the final report of the Department's Task Force on Prescription Drugs on March 16. The principal recommendation of the Task Force called for coverage of out-of-hospital prescription drugs under Medicare.
On May 16, 1969, the Secretary and Dr. Leonard M. Elstad, President of Gallaudet College, signed an agreement authorizing Gallaudet to construct, equip, and operate a model secondary school for the deaf. The school would open with a class of 50 students in temporary quarters in December.
On June 5, the Secretary issued Federal regulations establishing standards for the production of German measles (rubella) vaccine. On June 10, he announced that he had approved the first license in the U.S. to produce a live attenuated German measles vaccine, bringing to fruition a 7-year Government-industry effort to develop and make available to physicians such a vaccine.
The Secretary announced on June 30 that he was issuing a new regulation limiting fees paid to physicians, dentists, and other individual providers of medical services under Medicaid, effective July 1, 1969.
The Office of Child Development was established July 1, 1969, to carry out the President's commitment to improving the first five years of life. On the same date, Head Start, the program for preschool children launched in 1965 by the Office of Economic Opportunity, was transferred from OEO and delegated to OCD.
In August the Secretary established under the general direction of Deputy Under Secretary Frederic Malek the Federal Assistance Streamlining (FAST) Task Force to review grant programs, streamline procedures and simplify the application process.
The Social and Rehabilitation Service announced on August 20, that a record total of 241,390 disabled persons were rehabilitated to gainful employment in fiscal year 1969, an increase of 16 percent over the 207,918 of FY 1968.
Organizational changes designed to strengthen the Department's programs affecting children were announced by the Secretary September 17. The Children's Bureau was moved from the Social and Rehabilitation Service to the Office of Child Development in the Office of the Secretary. A Community Services Administration was established in SRS to consolidate administration of social service programs for children and adults. Health programs formerly administered by the Children's Bureau were moved to the Health Services and Mental Health Administration.
A dramatic reform of the current welfare structure, the Family Assistance Program, which would place a floor of uniform Federal welfare payments under the existing Federal-State-local payments and, for the first time, help the working poor, was proposed and sent to the Congress on October 2, 1969.
The Secretary ordered cyclamates removed from the list of substances generally recognized as safe (GRAS) on October 18 and on November 20, he banned the sale of beverages containing cyclamates after January 1, 1970.
The Department also acted in November to ban the chemical pesticide D.D.T. for all but essential use within the next two years. Laboratory tests had shown that both D.D.T. and cyclamates had caused cancer in mice. The actions were taken to protect the public health.
On October 23, three months after the President delivered his Message on Population, the Department established within the National Institutes of Health the National Center for Family Planning with a 5-year goal of reaching the estimated 5 million low-income women of child-bearing age who desire family planning services but cannot afford them.
The following day, the Secretary announced a major organizational change designed to strengthen HEW operations in consumer protection and environmental health. Effective February 1, 1970, the Consumer Protection and Environmental Health Service would be abolished and the Food and Drug Administration, one of its components, would be elevated to agency status. The two remaining elements of CPEHS would comprise a new Environmental Health Service. The action increased the Department's agencies from six to seven.
Seven new Medicaid programs-in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and North Carolina-began operation on January 1, 1970, which meant that Medicaid was operational in 48 of the 50 States plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The Social Security Administration reported on January 4 that more than 25 million persons-one of every eight Americans-were receiving social security monthly payments, including 16.6 million older workers and their dependents, 6.2 million survivors of deceased workers, and 2.5 million disabled workers and their dependents. Cash benefits totaled nearly $27 billion in calendar year 1969, $2 billion higher than in 1968.
Secretary Finch and Transportation Secretary Volpe announced jointly January 20 that representatives of virtually all of the Nation's airlines agreed to a program of sharply reduced smoke emissions from aircraft jet engines by 1972.
Federal regulations became effective January 22 regarding corrective action to be taken by manufacturers when such electronic products as color television receivers and microwave ovens are found to have a radiation safety defect or fail to comply with a Federal radiation control standard.
The Department joined with the Department of Defense on March 18, to launch MEDIHC, a program designed to encourage the more than 30,000 medically trained servicemen and women discharged from the Armed Forces annually to enter civilian careers in some 200 health occupations.
On April 5, the National Air Pollution Control Administration named an additional 34 interstate air quality control regions to be designated by the end of the summer, which would bring the total of such regions to 91.
Contracts totalling $5 million were awarded by the Department May 11 to two manufacturers to furnish 6,850,000 doses of rubella (German measles) vaccine between May and September of 1970. The Department estimated that 12 million children would be immunized against the disease by June and that by September half of the target population of 40 million children would be reached.
The Federal Assistance Streamlining Task Force reported in May on its efforts to simplify and overhaul the Department's grants-in-aid procedures. Of the first 50 programs reviewed, the task force:
- Developed a simplified grant processing system at the regional level, resulting in a decrease of total review time from six months to less than two.
- Eliminated non-productive documentation in 22 State plan programs, with the result that 6,800 fewer pages have to be prepared and submitted annually by each State, thus saving over S8 million and 867 man-years of State and Federal effort each year.
- Eliminated a total of 182 of the 516 steps in the review process for 23 project grant programs.
- Freed 351 man-years of State and Federal manpower annually by eliminating or reducing reports required from grantees.
In a related move, the Department restructured boundaries of the regional offices to conform with those of other major domestic agencies so that headquarters cities are the same. In addition, the Department moved to strengthen its 60,000-man regional organization and shifted line authority to the regional directors and regional agency heads, which reduced lines of reporting from 38 to 9.
In another management effort, to consolidate and strengthen the Department's architecturalengineering activities for HEW construction programs, the Facilities Engineering and Construction Agency (FECA) was established in the Office of the Secretary on May 26, 1970. Through regional and district offices, FECA would support architectural and engineering activities involving more than $1 billion annually.
SRS reported in June that the number of Americans receiving public assistance rose to a record 12.2 million-an increase of 2 million or 20 percent, over the previous year. The money payments, in the same period rose $2.1 billion to $12.8 billion-also a 20 percent increase.
On June 24, 1970, President Nixon moved to create the Environmental Protection Agency, a new independent Federal agency reporting directly to the President, to deal with the urgent problem of environmental pollution. To be established in December of 1970, EPA would bring under one organizational roof all Federal programs for controlling air and water pollution, solid wastes, pesticides, and radiation. The action would transfer most of the programs of the Department's Environmental Health Service to the new agency and abolish the Service as an HEW agency, reducing the number of such agencies in the Department from seven to six.