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States Are Laboratories of Innovation, Verma Says at CMS Quality Conference

Allison Inserro
Administrator Seema Verma said CMS will focus on “empowering patients, focusing on results, and unleashing innovation” during a speech on the first day of the 2019 CMS Quality Conference, and called states the “laboratories of democracy” when it comes to innovation in Medicaid.
Administrator Seema Verma said Tuesday that CMS will focus on “empowering patients, focusing on results, and unleashing innovation” during a speech on the first day of the 2019 CMS Quality Conference.

While she mostly recapped actions CMS has undertaken over the past year, she appeared to briefly allude to press reports that the administration is preparing to allow block grants in Medicaid, which has long been on the wish lists of conservatives. She called states the “laboratories of democracy” when it comes to creating innovative programs.

“Medicaid is a vital safety-net program that was created to care for society’s most vulnerable,” she said. “Let me be clear, this administration is firmly committed to this purpose. We recognize the rising costs of the program threatens its sustainability. It is vital that we work to ensure that Medicaid meets the needs of the people who truly need it.”

But, she said, “states are best positioned to design local solutions to these challenges, free of one-size-fits-all regulations from Washington that impair flexibility."

She touted the approvals for more than 50 Medicaid demonstration projects, including the 8 waivers to allow states to require beneficiaries to work or perform other activities as a condition of receiving benefits.

During her remarks, she also announced the latest patient safety data, saying there was a 13% drop in the number of hospital-acquired conditions between 2014 and 2017. She said that translates to a $7.7 billion in savings and 20,000 lives saved.

Verma also said CMS is continuing to work on reforming the so-called Stark law, and is reviewing how to pay for new technologies.

As she has in other recent speeches, she also criticized the idea of Medicare for All, saying, “we can barely afford the program that we have.”

Verma also said CMS will focus more on dual eligible beneficiaries, who number 12 million. These Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries have hospital readmission rates of 26%, she said.

She also touted this week’s launch of a mobile app as part of its Medicare initiative. The app shows whether Medicare covers a specific medical product or service. CMS will next launch a comparison app that allows beneficiaries to compare quality ratings across different types of care settings, she said.

It’s part of their plan to put the patient at the center so they can take control of their own healthcare and drive innovation and competition, she said.

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