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Elizabeth Fowler to lead CMMI as HHS announces new spate of hires

The new appointees join at a time when expertise is critical to tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced additional Biden Administration appointments, including the naming of Elizabeth Fowler to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation as director and deputy administrator.

As head of CMMI, Fowler will be tasked with directing and running payment models that are centered on value.

Fowler, who has held leadership positions at HHS, helped to draft the Affordable CareAct, which President Joe Biden has vowed to strengthen in part by establishing a government-run plan to compete alongside private health insurance offerings.

According to Bloomberg Law, Fowler served in the Obama administration as a special assistant on healthcare and economic policy at the National Economic Council; and as deputy director for policy at the CMS Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight office.

Since that time, she has worked as executive vice president for programs at the Commonwealth Fund, and as vice president for global health policy at Johnson & Johnson.


Fowler replaces Brad Smith, who headed CMMI for about a year at the close of the Trump administration. 

It's expected that CMMI will focus its work on furthering value-based care, which centers reimbursement on outcomes rather than volume. Possible avenues for doing so include expanding existing models to more providers and having hospitals and doctors take on more financial risk for their patients.

That means that if patients use less care than is covered by the payments made by Medicare and Medicaid, providers get to pocket some of the savings, whereas if patients use more, providers may be responsible for the cost depending on the model.

New Biden appointees join tens of thousands of career officials throughout the agency at a time when expertise is critical to tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS also announced other hires, including Rachel Pryor, counselor for health policy, Office of the Secretary; Loyce Pace, director of Global Affairs; Cindy Huang, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement; Andi Fristedt, deputy commissioner for policy for the Food and Drug Administration; and Jordan Grossman, chief of staff for the Health Resources and Services Administration.


The hires will join a number of high-profile appointees to the HHS, including Rear Admiral Susan Orsega as acting surgeon general.

Other HHS nominations are still awaiting Senate confirmation, including Xavier Becerra for Secretary. Becerra would be the first Latino person to lead the department.


"President Biden's team at HHS is growing quickly and continues to work tirelessly to end the COVID pandemic and address our many health challenges," said HHS Chief of Staff Sean McCluskie.

"Our appointees will work hand-in-hand with our dedicated team of career officials throughout HHS to protect and expand quality, affordable care to all Americans."

Twitter: @JELagasse
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