Healthcare Changes at the Top: HHS Secretary Confirmed; CMS Administrator Nominee Faces Senate Hearing

by: Lisa Boylan | 02.15.2017

Significant steps in a changing healthcare environment are unfolding in Washington. The Senate approved the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) last week in a 52-47 vote as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). In related news, Seema Verma, nominee for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Finance for her confirmation hearing on February 16.

“Collaboration is absolutely essential to maximize the potential of the healthcare delivery system, and to prevent policies that stifle it."

Verma, a healthcare consultant, notably has worked with state governments on implementing Medicaid expansion after enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Price was sworn in as Secretary hours after he was confirmed. He is now charged with leading President Trump’s efforts to dismantle key parts of the ACA. Price, an orthopedic surgeon who practiced surgery for nearly 20 years, has been a member of Congress since 2005, serving most recently as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

NACDS expressed support and a willingness to collaborate with Price and Verma when their nominations were announced late last year, and issued a statement from NACDS CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE. Anderson said, “NACDS welcomes the nominations of Congressman Tom Price to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Seema Verma to serve as Administrator of CMS. We are enthusiastic to help leverage pharmacy to improve Americans’ health and well-being.”

Anderson added, “Collaboration is absolutely essential to maximize the potential of the healthcare delivery system, and to prevent policies that stifle it. NACDS looks forward to engaging completely in the ongoing work of developing and implementing solutions that benefit American patients and consumers.”

As pharmacy looks to expand its role in healthcare delivery, it is promising that Price has already expressed support for pharmacists—specifically in terms of provider status. During his Senate confirmation hearing, in response to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Price said, “Paying pharmacists in underserved areas to engage in certain medical services could work well in those states where pharmacists have such licensure and a setting appropriate to the services, where primary care doctors continue to be involved in care, and where there is a patient and consumer demand for such services.”

In a note to HHS staff last Friday, Price reiterated that his guiding principles in improving healthcare delivery are: “affordability, accessibility, quality and responsiveness.”  NACDS’ Anderson wrote about Price’s stated priorities in a January NACDS.org column providing a detailed case, bolstered by national survey results commissioned by NACDS, of the powerful role pharmacy plays in advancing all of those  principles.


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