HHS’ Hargan: Trump administration is bullish on future of Medicare Advantage

Eric Hargan
HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan spoke at the AHIP National Health Policy Conference on Wednesday. (YouTube)

The Trump administration envisions the future of health coverage as far more personalized and consumer-centric, and that means it’s betting big on Medicare Advantage, a senior official said Wednesday morning. 

Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said the future of MA and traditional Medicare is “intertwined,” and that the agency sees MA as a blueprint for private payers to innovate in benefit design. 

“We see the future of Medicare and Medicare Advantage as the same,” Hargan said.

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Hargan spoke at America’s Health Insurance Plans’ National Health Policy Conference on Wednesday, where he highlighted the department’s work toward its key policy goals and teased more to come. 

RELATED: Verma promises hospital industry ‘significant’ Stark Law changes coming later this year 

One issue the industry should watch? Hargan said that is reform to the unpopular 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 provision, which impacts data sharing for patients with substance use disorder. Critics of the regulation argue that it poses a major barrier to coordinated care, and amid the opioid epidemic, industry groups have called on policymakers to take on the decades-old provision. 

HHS did update Part 2 in January 2018, but the changes didn’t go as far as some have suggested, including the White House Opioid Commission, which called for the regulation to be aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. And while those changes did clarify some issues with Part 2, compliance remains complex, experts said. Hargan said stakeholders should “watch this space very carefully” in the coming months. 

RELATED: Advocacy groups say better data sharing, consistent privacy laws will help control opioid prescribing 

Drug prices

In addition, Hargan touched on HHS’ work to address the rising cost of drugs, which has been a key focus for the administration, particularly since Secretary Alex Azar took the helm. When asked what reforms the White House was hoping for, Hargan said its drug price goals were clearly outlined in the “American Patients First” blueprint it released last May, and it has been treating that document as, essentially, a checklist. 

“That really was not wish-casting,” Hargan said. 

Much of the momentum on drug pricing is coming from the president, Hargan said. When President Donald Trump wants to see something happen, the team had better listen, he said.  

That’s why the blueprint is not “aspirational,” but a planned road map that addresses different elements of a complex, “multifactorial” issue, he said. 

“In many cases, when he’s decided to move on something, that’s pretty much where we’re going,” Hargan said.  

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