Skip to main content

3 Takeaways for 2019 From Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   November 01, 2018

Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan spoke to HealthLeaders last week about his first year in office and what the department is looking to achieve going into 2019.

After more than a year in his role as Deputy Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Eric Hargan feels confident in how the administration has pursued healthcare policy and what its next steps are. 

Hargan, who previously held the job for six months in 2007 following the departure of then-Deputy Sec. Alex Azar, spoke to HealthLeaders last week while attending the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit. 

Hargan discussed the interest in the Deputy Secretary’s Innovation and Investment Summit (DSIIS), the administration's push to roll back regulatory and administrative burdens across the healthcare sector, along with the work that remains to be done to push toward a value-based care system. 

Here are three takeaways from Hargan about how the federal government is eliciting feedback from innovators as well as crafting policy to shape the future of healthcare in 2019.  

1. 'Unbelievable' response to DSIIS

  • Hargan is 'happy' about the feedback he's received to HHS' official outreach project to the healthcare innovation sector.
  • The summit will meet quarterly and involves healthcare innovation and investment professionals along with HHS personnel.
  • The deadline for participant recommendations was due October 3, which Hargan said was met with an 'unbelievable' response.
  • Hargan said the DSIIS will likely include work groups aside from the core participants to drive engagement due to overwhelming interest.
  • He added that HHS needs to also be thoughtful about making sure the summit is about understanding innovators and investors without putting its thumb on the scale to pick winners or losers.

Related: HHS Seeks Innovation Experts For Summit

"I look at it as just us learning from [investors and innovators], why they're doing particular things, and areas where we can deburden or learn how the incentives we are providing have an effect on them," Hargan said.

    2. Value-based care remains ongoing goal for HHS

    • "There are only areas for improvement going forward," Hagan said about the government's role in the move toward value-based care.
    • He says he believes the federal government is at the point now where there can be a transition from a system of paying for procedures and fee-for-service to paying for outcomes and value.
    • Hargan attributes this opportunity to the recent changes in digital health as well as IT improvements.
    • He also said that Adam Boehler, director of CMMI who was appointed senior advisor for value-based transformation and innovation, will have a leading hand in those policy decisions.

    "We have a lot of good stuff coming up in the drive for value-based care, but it's a general trend that we are hoping to accelerate in moving toward outcomes," Hargan said.

    Related: Federal government needs to figure out "key drivers" of physician burnout, U.S. HHS deputy secretary says

    "I think technologically, we have the ability to understand what those outcomes would be and monitor progress towards it." 

    3. Effective administrative burden reduction has already taken place

    • HHS saved $12.5 billion last year in regulatory savings, according to Hargan, the most for any federal department last year. 
    • Hargan said those savings have ultimately lowered the cost of care for patients as well as cut regulations placed on doctors. 
    • The Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care is another top priority for Hargan, focusing on four laws that haven't gotten off the ground yet.
    • These include: Stark Law, an anti-kickback statute, HIPAA, and 42 CFR Part Two, a substance use privacy law.
    • He also cited the Meaningful Measures Initiative put into place by CMS, as an example of how HHS has reduced duplicative, obsolete clinical measures to provide regulatory burden relief.

    Related: Stark Law Reform Push Sees Movement on Multiple Fronts

    "By being able to roll those kinds of things back, cumulatively, we are going to be enabling people to provide more care and work on their own missions rather than responding to paperwork demands from the government," Hargan said.

    Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


    Hargan is still focused on one of his major passions: healthcare regulatory reform.

    The Deputy Secretary’s Innovation and Investment Summit (DSIIS) has seen an 'unbelievable' response to join.

    Value-based care has areas for improvement going forward, but Hargan is encouraged by opportunities for HHS to move the industry away from fee-for-service.

    Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.