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Burwell Confirmed as New HHS Secretary

Last week, the Senate voted 78-17 to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services. Ms. Burwell was previously the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and prior to that she worked as the President of the Walmart Foundation and the President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ms. Burwell was officially sworn-in on Monday.

Her relatively easy confirmation process and bipartisan support reflect her respected tenure at OMB the leg work that she did to personally reach out to over 70 Senators. Republicans have expressed many concerns about the lack of transparency and responsiveness from Secretary Sebelius and have publically praised Burwell for her commitment to change that pattern of interaction.

Of particular note, in Ms. Burwell's most recent Senate Finance Committee Confirmation hearing, a series of questions were submitted for the record about CMS's recent guidance on Part D payment for drugs for hospice patients. In her response to Senators' questions concerning patient access to their prescription drugs and confusion about coordination among Part D plans and hospice providers, Ms. Burwell responded that she is "looking forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders on this issue. It is my understanding that CMS has requested comments on changes the agency considering to the hospice regulations, including definitions for the terms 'terminal illness' and 'related conditions' and requirements for hospices to coordinate with Part D sponsors and is encouraging both Part D sponsors and hospice providers to provide input to inform the agency's decision making process."

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