Donald Trump’s health secretary was on fire during a March 5 address to the Federation of American Hospitals. Alex Azar, the former Eli Lilly executive now charged with overseeing everything from Medicare to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, outlined plans to achieve nothing less than the “value-based transformation” of American health care.

“Today’s healthcare system is simply not delivering outcomes commensurate with its cost,” he said. And Azar put his biggest finger on a commonly blamed problem: the fact that American health care is “paying for procedures and sickness” instead of “outcomes and wellness.”

. . .

When Republicans failed to repeal ObamaCare last year, it recalled the old line about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That loss, however, should not be allowed to overshadow an important Republican success on health care. Millions of Medicare beneficiaries now get their coverage through private plans under Medicare Advantage—a quiet step forward that brings real benefits. To ensure continued progress, Republicans must resist the temptation to choose short-term savings over long-term reform.

. . .

The tax-reform provision repealing the penalty on those who refuse to participate in ObamaCare has freed millions of Americans to escape a system that exploits them. But while Americans can escape ObamaCare, they still can’t buy insurance in the individual market independent of ObamaCare because private insurers are prohibited from selling it. If this prohibition can be removed through the granting of state waivers by the Department of Health and Human Services, or by the passage of a new federal statute, ObamaCare will collapse into a high-risk insurance pool for the seriously ill rather than become a stepping stone to socialized medicine.

. . .

The Trump administration is preparing to offer Americans an affordable alternative to the high-cost coverage on Obamacare’s exchanges by overturning one of the previous administration’s most burdensome regulations.

On February 20, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule based on President Trump’s October 12, 2017, Executive Order that would allow insurers to sell “short-term” health plans that provide coverage for up to 364 days. The proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days. The measure would nullify an Obama administration directive issued in October 2016 that banned short-term plans lasting longer than three months.

. . .

In a speech to hospital executives earlier this week, new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar outlined his agenda for improving the value of health services provided to patients. He clearly understands that the number one problem in U.S. health care is the prevalence of wasteful spending on services that drive up costs without improving the health of patients.

The many previous efforts aimed at tackling this immense and complex problem have barely put a dent in it. Azar made it evident that, from his perspective, the solution is a market-driven system with informed and active consumers making cost-effective decisions about their own care. He was also appropriately ambitious as he begins his tenure, putting everyone on notice — including those with vested interests in the status quo, as well as his own HHS employees — that big changes are coming, one way or another.

. . .

The White House is pushing for several conservative policies to be included in a bill aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare, according to an administration memo obtained by The Hill.

The document gives support to funding controversial ObamaCare payments known as cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), which President Trump canceled in October. But it also lays out conservative policies that the administration wants included as well.

. . .

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obamacare “the stupidest, dumbass bill” he’s ever seen at a recent American Enterprise Institute forum. “Some of you may have loved it,” he said. “And if you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.”

Hatch ended up apologizing for his comment, but the question remains: If the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee considers Obamacare the “stupidest, dumbass” law on earth, then why on earth are his fellow Republicans so desperate to bail it out?

. . .

Short-term health insurance is sometimes scoffed at as “sham insurance.” But to those who turn to it in need, this kind of insurance offers vital protection from unexpected medical costs. The Trump administration’s plan to extend how long it lasts makes sense.

Short-term plans offer temporary coverage for many of the same things standard health plans do. They don’t, however, cover things like preventive care, maternity care, or pre-existing medical conditions. Short-term plans do not meet the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but they have long offered a meaningful measure of protection to people who need to fill a gap in health insurance coverage.

. . .

Having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans now want to create a new corporate welfare program to save it. Here’s a better idea: Congress and the administration should give states more latitude to clean up the mess—at no additional cost to the federal government. That is a central recommendation of a new study co-authored by Doug Badger, Senior Fellow at the Galen Institute, and Rea Hederman, Vice President of Policy at The Buckeye Institute. The study examines congressional and federal proposals that surfaced throughout last year in the broader context of the “repeal and replace” debate. The most promising ideas to repair broken insurance markets emanated not from Washington, but from the states. Read the full Mercatus Center study here.

. . .

I come to bury IPAB, not to praise it.

Like Brutus and his co-conspirators wielding the knife against Julius Caesar, the budget deal Congress passed in the early morning hours of February 9 put to death an idea whose time apparently never came and, now never will. The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), created in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is history.

It is a rare moment when Republicans and Democrats agree on something they don’t like about the ACA. Behind IPAB’s demise is a belief that Congress shouldn’t delegate its powers to determine Medicare’s rules and a massive political force that reinforced that belief.

. . .