HLTH 2022: CMS Administrator calls for greater public, private cooperation to improve health care

Government and private sector often don’t understand each other’s role in providing care, says Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

The nation’s public and private sectors need closer cooperation and better understanding of each other’s needs in order to improve health and health care delivery in the future, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

“I’m amazed at how little the public and private sector really understand each other when it comes to meeting health care needs,” Brooks-LaSure said at the 2022 HLTH Conference in Las Vegas. “People on both sides aren’t really speaking the same language or understanding where those on the other side are coming from.” Her remarks came during a session titled “Advancing Health Equity and Supporting Health Care Resiliency, where she responded to questions posed by Natalie Davis, CEO of United States of Care.

Brooks-LaSure noted that between Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act marketplace, CMS provides health care coverage for nearly half the country’s population. On the other hand, the care itself comes via the private sector.

“So it’s really important for us at CMS to understand the challenges and opportunities of partnering with the private sector,” she said. “But at the same time, the private sector needs to understand it doesn’t matter if they develop a really innovative product if the people who rely on our programs can’t access that product.”

Having that access, she said, will enable all Americans to live their lives to their fullest potential, and reverse the decline in life expectancy the nation has experienced in recent years. “So I see it as just so important for us to understand each other’s perspectives and make sure as products are developed and funded they reflect what policymakers think is important and what elected representatives are hearing from their constituents.”

Asked about the drug pricing provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, Brooks-LaSure said, “Stakeholders have been telling us they’re ready to work with us on implementation. They just want to understand how we’re going to approach it, and telling us the operational things they need from us so they can move forward.”

Brooks-LaSure said that CMS’s focus in the coming months will be on getting more Americans vaccinated and/or boosted against COVID-19 and influenza, as well as restoring vaccination rates for “run of the mill” childhood diseases, which have lagged in recent years.

Longer term, she said, the agency will continue the Biden administration’s policy of working with what she termed “essential community providers,” such as community health organizations, to expand coverage and determine health care priorities.

“Then the challenge becomes making sure what we learn translates into the care people really need,” she said. “That means making sure we incorporate the perspectives of the people we’re trying to reach the the providers who are actually serving those populations.”