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Capitol Correspondence - 02.25.19

HHS Secretary Azar Shared His 2018 Wins – What Issues Are Carrying Over Into 2019?

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On Friday, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar shared his 2019 “State of the Department” remarks, which went over the Department’s 2018 achievements. This is interesting to the intellectual / developmental disability (I/DD) community because it shows what the Department is likely to focus on in 2019.

Of particular note to I/DD providers, the Secretary mentioned the Department’s new “vision for value-based healthcare, a challenge that so many of us at the department have been working on for a long time”. Looking ahead to 2019, Secretary Azar also shared: “We will take major steps in transforming our health system to pay for value, rolling out new models that empower patients and pay for outcomes.”  As ANCOR has shared in the past, the new head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), Adam Boehler, has stated his interest in shifting away from fee-for-service models. ANCOR members interested in learning more about value based models in the I/DD field are encouraged to read our recent white paper on this topic.

Additionally, showing HHS’ continued interest in efficiency and cost control, the Secretary stated: “In 2018, HHS’s Office of Inspector General—and I—participated in the largest national Healthcare Fraud Takedown Day in history, charging over 600 individuals with participating in fraud schemes involving about $2 billion in losses to Medicare and Medicaid.” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, who serves under Secretary Azar, has expressed concerns about the growth of Medicaid. Those comments, combined with an HHS proposal to block grant Medicaid in the works and Congress asking CMS to look into Medicaid fraud, promise that Medicaid oversight will be a hot topic in 2019 politics. ANCOR is closely following these issues and will let members know of opportunities for action as the need arises.