New Secretary Alex Azar Should Refocus HHS Priorities to be More Consumer-Friendly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 24, 2018

Contact: Kathy Melley, 617-791-0708

 

(BOSTON, MA) -- Statement of Robert Restuccia, executive director of Community Catalyst, regarding today’s Senate confirmation of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“As newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar has a golden opportunity to refocus the department’s priorities to ensure the American health system meets its obligation to serve all consumers, especially the most vulnerable. It is our hope that with a change in leadership at HHS we will also see a marked change in the Trump administration’s approach to oversight of our health care system.

“We are deeply troubled by the Trump administration’s recent approval of waivers to allow states to enact Medicaid work requirements, lock-outs and other ill-advised policies that we believe are illegal and extremely harmful to people. We urge Secretary Azar to reverse these policies, which undercut the purpose of the Medicaid Act and could cause many who qualify to lose coverage. The added bureaucracy these policies impose also undermines delivery system reform by discouraging people from enrolling until they face a major illness or accident.

“We also hope Secretary Azar will change course on many of the Trump administration’s policies that threaten to undermine the quality of care and health security of women and LGTBQ individuals. Efforts to limit women’s access to reproductive health care and to allow providers to deny care based on their personal religious beliefs or institutional religious doctrine run counter to our health system’s commitment to put patients’ rights and medical needs first.

“Secretary Azar has stated his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, but we take him at his word that he will work to implement the law. Under Secretary Azar’s leadership, we hope HHS will do a better job of helping more people obtain coverage. This last enrollment period made it clear that Americans demand and support the quality, affordable health insurance and consumer protections the ACA offers. The administration should be doing everything in its power to make it easier, not harder, for people to enroll in health care plans. Supporting adequate funding for navigator grants, restoring funding to boost marketing for outreach and enrollment, and creating a longer enrollment period would be positive first steps.

“Alongside ACA and Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and Medicare are the foundation of our health care system. We hope Secretary Azar will oppose any effort to make radical changes to Medicaid and Medicare that would impede access to care, shift the cost of care onto consumers who can least afford it, and thwart innovations that are improving the quality and reducing the cost of care in the United States.

“Lastly, we also hope Secretary Azar will provide leadership in addressing factors that are driving up costs to the health care system and forcing consumers to pay more for care. While Secretary Azar’s close ties to the pharmaceutical industry are a cause for a concern, we hope he will use his experience and knowledge of industry practices to work to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. This is a major priority for Americans and an issue that could win bipartisan support. Further, we hope Secretary Azar will be open to continuing innovations in payment and delivery reform included in the ACA that are already showing promise in improving the quality and reducing the cost of care.

“We look forward to working with Secretary Azar to protect consumers’ health security and the programs that play a critical role in ensuring all people have access to high-quality, affordable health coverage.”

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About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.

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