Trump HHS, CMS, FDA Chiefs Rattle Health Sector Leaders
This week marked a true rarity for the Trump Administration: a coordinated, effective burst of reform-minded tough talk from three separate health policy leaders, in three consecutive days.
In rat-tat-tat fashion, his HHS Secretary, CMS Administrator and FDA Commissioner rattled major health industry leaders — making it clear, as Politico noted, “that the time for talk [about reform] is over, and the time for change is now.”
First up was newly-minted HHS Secretary Alex Azar, with a stark message to the powerful hospital sector: “We are unafraid of disrupting existing arrangements simply because they’re backed by powerful special interests,” he said at the Federation of American Hospitals conference. “Our current system may be working for many. But it’s not working for patients and it’s not working for the taxpayer.”
Next, CMS Administrator Seema Verma warned IT leaders about data sharing: “The days of finding creative ways to trap patients in health systems is over. It is not acceptable to prevent patients and their doctors from seeing patients’ health records outside of a particular health system.”
Finally, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stood before an AHIP conference in downtown DC and slammed health insurers and pharmacy benefit manager (PBMs) middlemen for being complicit in “Kabuki drug pricing constructs” and a “rigged payment scheme” that exposes consumers to high costs, and discourages needed competition.
Explaining the coordinated blast, Trump officials later suggested they would pursue more aggressive steps than Obama-era reformers.
The bottom line? This “triple play” is a warning to the health care industry establishment that foot-dragging on reform will not be tolerated.
Of course, talk is cheap. But Trump’s unpredictability and volatile nature leaves industry leaders wary the President may take unilateral action, and use them as an example — as he’s done with other unsuspecting targets.
“Saying difficult things to powerful interests is the hallmark of a great public servant,” said Andy Slavitt, the former Obama CMS administrator who’s been critical of the Trump administration, yet praised Gottlieb’s remarks. “Under Obama, I would have been proud to give this speech.”
Praise like that about Trump Administration health policy from an Obama appointee isn’t just a rarity, it’s never happened.