Open HHS positions leave agency unprepared for changes, group says

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Vacancies still exist among the Department of Health and Human Services' leadership positions, leaving the agency without the power to make lasting health policy changes, one group said last week.

HHS vets are still temporarily serving in more than half of the agency's top positions, maintaining “status quo” until new officials are put in place by President Donald Trump's administration, Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, told Bloomberg BNA.

The Partnership for Public Service, along with The Washington Post, have created a tracker of how many “key” executive branch positions have been filled so far by the Trump administration.

HHS is not the only agency with unfilled positions, experts noted, but the unfilled positions could impact long-term care providers. The HHS positions that have yet to turn over under the new administration include assistant secretary roles for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Sixteen of the 27 positions require Congressional confirmation; so far just four have been nominated, with HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., and CMS Administrator Seema Verma clinching the only confirmations thus far, according to the tracker.

“It's like when you have a substitute teacher,” Stier said.  “Even if you have an amazing substitute, they're still not positioned to have long-term authority or make long-term changes when it's needed.”