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U.S. HHS Leader Azar Pledges Historic Regulatory Reforms During 2019

March 20, 2019

Federal Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar addressed health care attorneys this week about the role that regulatory reform plays in better health care at a lower cost.

During his speech to the American Health Lawyers Association, Azar said that “current federal health care regulations stand in the way of paying for health and treating American patients in a collaborative, caring way.”

HHS launched an initiative during 2018, a Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, which involved re-examining rules that impede coordinated care. The agency focused on the Stark Law, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), HIPAA, and mental health and substance abuse policy rules. 

Stark and AKS impact compensation and financial arrangements between providers. HIPAA and mental health and substance abuse privacy rules impact the flow of patient information. Azar stressed that payment regulations have a chilling effect on provider coordination of care, and information regulations impact collaboration.

Today, more and more providers are being paid based upon outcomes, the value of the care. Key to this system is the ability for a patients’ providers to work together efficiently and effectively to deliver the right care, at the right time, in the right place. This concept of collaborating, coordinating, and splitting the payment is still penalized under the AKS when providers are not under the same ownership.

There are windows of opportunity for change under new government value-based payment models, but those opportunities are limited and do not extend to private-sector innovations.

Azar said that HHS will make historic regulatory reforms during 2019.

“The value of getting our regulations right, of using them to empower patients as consumers, build real markets, and unleash innovation, is almost incalculable,” Azar said.

He closed stressing the Administration is fully committed to removing regulatory barriers that stand in the way of delivering better care at lower costs.

During August 2017, HAP sent a letter  to the U.S. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, with an extensive list of recommendations that Congress and/or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could adopt to address statutory and regulatory burdens, including priorities such as:

HAP will continue to monitor the federal regulatory reform initiative and provide input as necessary on behalf of the hospital and health system community.

For additional information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal legislative advocacy.

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