Azar outlined a number of reforms his administration plans to take to lower healthcare costs during a March 5 speech at the Federation of American Hospitals convention in Washington, D.C.
Azar said he plans to implement changes that will increase price transparency, make it easier for patients to access their health records and loosen regulations that may stifle innovation. He made it clear he does not intend to bend to healthcare interests during this process.
According to The Hill, Mr. Azar said:
Today is an opportunity to let everyone know that we take these shifts seriously, and they’re going to happen — one way or another. The administration and this president are not interested in incremental steps. We are unafraid of disrupting existing arrangements simply because they’re backed by powerful special interests.
Azar, sworn in five weeks ago after serving as an Eli Lilly & Co. executive, called for public and private stakeholders alike to embrace competitive market forces and value-based payment models.
HealthLeaders Media reports Azar said:
Providers have been understandably reluctant to charge into a completely new payment paradigm. Massive new processes and data-gathering requirements have been instituted, without any fundamental changes to our delivery system. Results for the early stages of federal efforts to encourage accountable care organizations have been, to be honest, underwhelming. But there is no turning back to an unsustainable system that pays for procedures rather than value.
The HHS secretary’s four stated priorities generally mirror what the Obama administration pushed in its final years in office, Politico reports. The methods for achieving those goals, of course, will likely look different.
- Azar priority #1: Allow patients to access their medical records. This was also the focus of the HHS health IT office in Obama’s second term, David writes, noting that the office spent months drafting a ” roadmap” for better information sharing and promoted new ways to access patient records.
- Azar priority #2: Increase transparency. Boosting transparency of services will help patients better shop for care, he said. The previous administration also focused on making Medicare data public to let consumers compare the quality of various providers.
- Azar priority #3: Use of MACRA and CMS Innovation Center. The secretary’s message that “we will use these tools to drive real change in our system” could easily have been uttered by his predecessors, David notes. The Obama administration’s efforts sparked some grumbling from providers, who said HHS was pushing pay-for-performance programs too aggressively. The Trump administration has been more deferential to providers, which brings us to the fourth point…
- Azar priority #4: Reduce government burdens. Unlike the other areas, this wasn’t a message traditionally delivered by the Obama administration.
Read the text of Azar’s speech at HHS.gov