AHA16: Andy Slavitt says CMS wants to help hospitals drive change

WASHINGTON, D.C.--As they discussed their health policy priorities Tuesday at the American Hospital Association's annual conference, two top officials in the Obama administration emphasized that the federal government wants to collaborate with healthcare leaders as it strives to transform the delivery system.

"We may find ourselves in disagreement at times, but let's all remember that we're on the same side," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said in the day's federal forum plenary.

Both McDonough and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt (pictured right) praised the Affordable Care Act, with Slavitt pointing out that the reform law "laid the groundwork" for the country to make significant gains in healthcare access and affordability.

Yet while the ACA's health insurance coverage gains and delivery system reforms are laudable, CMS wants to be more than a federal policymaker and the country's largest payer, Slavitt said. "We want to be seen as an ally that helps you thrive in the midst of all this change."

That will mean helping the healthcare system to not just bend the cost curve, but also to break out of its long-held silos, he said, noting that new ways of thinking are particularly important given the fact that Medicare, Medicaid and exchange plan enrollees are more diverse, demanding and cost-conscious than ever before.

Thus, he said, for the millions of Americans who work in the healthcare industry, "affordable care is now part of everyone's job."

The agency's overarching goals, Slavitt said, are to streamline the "messy patchwork" of quality measurement programs, reduce the regulatory burden on providers, create policies to support rural healthcare and further interoperability efforts. Interoperability, he added, is a "high priority at the highest level of government and should be throughout healthcare."

CMS is furthering the goal of simplifying quality measurement in part through its recently proposed rule tackling the initial implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, Slavitt said, noting that thanks to these new policies, the U.S. is on track to have alternative payment models be the dominant payment programs by 2018.

Yet he also pointed out that like first- and second-generation iPhones, alternative payment models still must be refined based on feedback from industry stakeholders.

"We should all take a step back and recognize that all of them are still in their early stages," Slavitt said. "I think it would be a mistake to view these models as fully calibrated incentives."

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