HHS nominee: Would embrace outcomes-based pay more than predecessor

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President Donald Trump's pick for the new Department of Health and Human Services secretary would continue the department's focus on value-based payments if confirmed, he shared during a hearing Wednesday.

Appearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, former pharma exec Alex Azar said one of his four main priorities for the department would be to “harness the power of Medicare to shift the focus in our healthcare system from paying for procedures and sickness to paying for health and outcomes.”

“We can better channel the power of health information technology, and leverage what is best in our programs and in the private, competitive marketplace to ensure the individual patient is at the center of decision making and his or her needs are being met with greater transparency and accountability,” Azar said.

If confirmed, Azar would fill the gap left after the resignation of Tom Price, M.D., who was a vocal critic of initiatives such as mandatory bundled payments. Despite his departure, observers said last month that the department would likely continue its roll back of the mandatory models.

Azar, who earned cautious optimism from long-term care provider groups upon his nomination, said he'd also use his position to focus on lowering drug prices, making healthcare more affordable, and tackling the opioid epidemic.

“These are serious challenges that require a serious-minded sense of purpose, and, if confirmed, I will work with the superb team at HHS to deliver serious results,” Azar told the committee.

The Senate HELP hearing was a courtesy hearing; the final confirmation decision will come after a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee, which has not yet been scheduled.