HHS Secretary Tom Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma Address the Summer 2017 National Governors Association Meeting "The Future of Health Care"

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Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., and Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services addressed the future of healthcare at a meeting with governors at the Summer 2017 National Governors Association Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D.

Full Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

[Excerpts]

"Under President Trump’s leadership—and following his vision for a reformed and renewed federal government—at HHS and across the Administration we are eagerly embarking on a new era of partnership and collaboration with America’s 50 states. And we believe that the basis for a successful federal-state relationship ought to be open and frequent dialogue. 

“So, I’m pleased to be here, not only to talk to you about what’s going on at HHS, but more importantly to listen to—and to learn from—all of you. And you couldn't have picked a more important topic for this morning's conversation—“The Future of Health Care” in America. 

“I say that not because of what’s going on in Congress right now, but because—if you think about it—every time we talk about healthcare we’re talking about its future. In fact, every policy debate—whether we’re talking about healthcare or anything else—is invariably a debate about the future…”

“If someone had told the American people ten or twenty years ago that one of the first priorities of a new president would be setting up a panel on drug addiction and something called the opioid crisis, I think most would have been pretty confused.

“And yet here we are, with opioids being a pressing issue for nearly everyone in this room...States have led the dynamic response to a problem that most never dreamed would get this large or pressing…Of course, there is an important federal role here, too. We have defined five strategies for fighting the opioid epidemic:

  • Improving access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services, including the full range of medication-assisted treatment
  • Targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; 
  • Strengthening timely public health data and reporting; 
  • Supporting cutting-edge research on pain and addiction; and 
  • Advancing the practice of pain management.

“…The opioid crisis and our response to it thus far is a useful case study that ought to inform how we think about the future of healthcare in America, because we aren’t winning that battle—not yet. 

“States have responded aggressively, and Congress has belatedly taken action too. But we need to aim higher—we need to aim for more fruitful federal-state partnerships, more aggressive action on opioids, new approaches to everything from health insurance access to figuring out how to bring down the costs of medicines. 

"As some of you may or may not know, the NGA was founded to address a particular cross-border problem from the state level: the management of inland waterways. 

“You can think of the ever-changing nature of healthcare like a waterway: rivers never stay the same. Their banks, their currents, their level of flow are always shifting. Sometimes it’s imperceptible, but it ends up having huge effects.

“This is how we ought to look at the future of healthcare, and how to get it right: There are constant shifts, some we can see, some we cannot. The only way to address that is to have the most collaborative relationship possible between the federal government, states, and our private-sector and civil-society partners, and to empower those closest to the challenges we face. We look forward to making that a reality under this Administration.”

 CMS Administrator Seema Verma

Full Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

[Excerpts]

“…The Secretary is absolutely right that our healthcare laws and programs need to be able to adapt to the dynamic nature of medicine. And he’s absolutely right that this means we need to empower states with the flexibility and authority they need to create the kinds of policies that meet the unique health needs of their citizens.”

"…So now that I have the privilege of serving as CMS Administrator, my goal is to focus the Agency on offering you more flexibility, so that America’s governors come to see CMS as an ally rather than an adversary.

“That’s why one of the first things we did earlier this year was send a letter to the governors of all 50 states encouraging them to use State Innovation Waivers under Section 1332 of the ACA to develop new, innovative policies tailor made to meet the unique healthcare needs of their citizens. Then, in May, we released a checklist that helps simplify the process for states that are interested in applying for a State Innovation Waiver.

“So far, we’ve been very encouraged by the response. It is clear that many governors are eager to break free from some of the most restrictive federal healthcare regulations and come up with their own solutions that they know will help improve health outcomes for their citizens…”

“In addition, at CMS we are starting a major deregulation initiative that will make it easier for healthcare providers and states to spend more time and resources focusing on delivering high-quality care, and less time and resources trying to comply with complex regulations that don’t meaningfully improve care, quality, or safety.

“We have also been working with members of the Senate to outline new options for states to reimagine coverage in ways that allow Medicaid to work in tandem with tax credits available under BCRA, so that low-income Americans have access to high-quality, affordable coverage.

“Unfortunately, the data I understand was presented to this group does not consider the full-range of funding opportunities available under BCRA, including tax credits, the stability fund, and opioid funding, as well as federal dollars available through the Medicaid.  I take significant issue with this information. 

"BCRA also gives states unique opportunities for states to design systems that ensure their citizens have access to affordable, high-quality coverage.  As everyone in this room well knows, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to every problem. Working with governors and state officials to create programs that address the unique needs of their citizens in a sustainable way has long been a passion of mine, and as CMS Administrator I look forward to continuing that work with all of you well into the future.

“As Dr. Price mentioned, the basis of any fruitful federal-state partnership must be open and honest dialogue, so with that let’s start the conversation. I look forward to answering your questions and hearing your ideas about how we can make healthcare better for your citizens. Thank you.”

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