HHS’ Alex Azar urges ‘bolder action’ on Value-Based Healthcare

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday that value-based healthcare “needs to accelerate dramatically” in the U.S., calling for a range of changes to the healthcare system that he said would provide more tools to give consumers more control over their care.

“This is no time to be timid — today’s healthcare system is simply not delivering outcomes commensurate with its cost,” said Azar, speaking at the public policy conference for the Federation of American Hospitals in Washington.

Azar’s speech focused on value-based care, an approach in which doctors and hospitals are reimbursed by private health insurance and the government for how well patients emerge after a medical procedure versus the amount of care provided. That method was also cited by the Obama administration as a priority, and Azar during his speech called out that work, saying that value-based care was “taken seriously by President Barack Obama’s administration as well.”

He noted that while policymakers had been discussing such potential changes since the early 2000s, the shift was just getting started and was “still far from reaching its potential.”

He laid out areas the Trump administration plans to emphasize, promising to deliver “disruptive” changes in healthcare, including giving consumers more control over their health information, encouraging more transparency from healthcare providers and payers, using experimental models in Medicare and Medicaid, and removing government burdens.

Azar stressed the need for patients to better understand what medical care will cost them, citing examples such as knowing the price of a medical procedure or a prescription drug. He also cited examples in which providers spend an extensive amount of time reporting their outcomes, which can limit the amount of time they can deliver care.

“Our current system may be working for many, but it’s not working for patients and it’s not working for taxpayers,” Azar said.

Azar was sworn in as secretary five weeks ago and will be speaking at the policy conference for America’s Health Insurance Plans on Wednesday. Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, called Azar the “perfect pick for the times” in remarks ahead of Azar’s speech.

He reiterated his overall priorities Monday were to focus on value-based care, combat the opioid crisis, bring down the cost of prescription drugs and to lower the cost of health insurance for people who do not receive coverage through the government or through work.

“This administration, and this president, are not interested in incremental steps,” Azar said. “We are unafraid of disrupting existing arrangements simply because they’re backed by powerful special interests.”

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