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HHS’s Azar and Sebelius Oppose Price Fixing at ‘Hospital Site’

Alex Azar (Credits: CNN)

Former Department of Health and Human Services leaders from both the Obama and Trump administrations have come together with a proposal aimed at curbing healthcare costs, appealing to bipartisan sensibilities in Congress.

Alex Azar, who served as HHS secretary under Donald Trump, and Kathleen Sebelius, who held the position under Barack Obama, outlined their solution in an op-ed for STAT, a prominent healthcare media outlet. Their proposal centers on advocating for site-neutral payments, a measure they argue would yield savings for patients and taxpayers.

Kathleen Sebelius (Credits: AP News)

In their piece, Azar and Sebelius highlight a common scenario where the acquisition of independent physician offices by hospital systems leads to increased costs for basic medical services.

This elevation in prices occurs merely due to the change in administrative classification, without any tangible alterations in the services provided or the physical locations. They stress the importance of rectifying this discrepancy through the implementation of site-neutral payment policies.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations expressed support for site-neutral payment initiatives, with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 marking a remarkable step towards reform in Medicare payments. They note that despite previous efforts, there is still room for improvement, urging the current Congress to revisit this issue.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Credits: The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Azar and Sebelius emphasize the potential for substantial savings by advancing site-neutral payment policies, particularly for services such as office visits, X-rays, minor procedures, and drug injections.

They cite recommendations from the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee as further evidence of the cost-saving benefits of such reforms.

They assert that site-neutral payments offer a pragmatic solution to reducing healthcare costs for both patients and taxpayers. By addressing incentives for consolidation and encouraging efficient care delivery, they believe this policy change is a straightforward yet impactful step towards affordability and accessibility in healthcare.

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