Capitol Correspondence - 12.04.17

Highlights from Hearing for HHS Secretary Nominee Alex Azar

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On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a courtesy hearing for the nominee for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Alex Azar. The video can be accessed here.

While the hearing focused predominantly on compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the rising cost of prescription drugs, the following points are of interest to providers:

  • Senator Bennet (D-CO) asked Mr. Azar whether he would ensure that Medicare and Medicaid would not be cut under this Administration. Mr. Azar focused his reply on Medicare, specifically strengthening the program by reducing fraud.
  • Senator Cassidy (R-LA) initiated a back and forth on outcomes data from the Medicaid program generally and Mr. Azar responded that if confirmed he will be looking into the data that is provided to measure outcomes from the Medicaid program.
  • In response to questions by Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Alexander (R-TN), Mr. Azar stated that he would support a drive towards interoperability of electronic medical records. ANCOR has been advocating for IDD providers to benefit from such technology, because other health sectors already do so.

Additionally, ANCOR members will find Mr. Azar’s four priorities for HHS informative:

  1. Addressing the rising cost of prescription drugs, notably by implementing Part D while encouraging research and discovery.
  2. Expanding health care for all, especially those not covered by the ACA.
  3. Harness the power of Medicare to transition the health care system from focusing on paying for treatment to paying for prevention and being more focused on individuals.
  4. Addressing the opioid crisis by preventing over-prescription and over-use of prescription drugs, as well as assisting those suffering from addiction.

The official hearing for the nomination will be hosted by the Senate Finance Committee. It has not yet been announced – once it is, ANCOR will keep members updated.