HHS Secretary Appoints First Chief Competition Officer

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has appointed Stacy Sanders as the agency’s first Chief Competition Officer. In that role, she will lead efforts to implement healthcare-focused elements of the President’s 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.


As chief competition officer, Sanders will lead HHS in data sharing, establishing training programs and developing health care competition policy initiatives to address concentration in health care markets, according to the agency’s announcement last week.

By working with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice on enforcement initiatives in the labor, agricultural and health care markets – including prescription drugs, hospital consolidation, insurance and technology – according to a White House fact sheet on the executive order.

The White House said in the fact sheet that greater scrutiny of technology-related mergers is needed, “particularly by dominant internet platforms,” citing “the acquisition of emerging competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition through ‘free’ products and the effect on user privacy” as areas of concern.

The order also directs the FTC to establish rules for tech market surveillance, data accumulation tactics, and competition in Internet markets, citing the “extraordinary amounts of sensitive personal information and related data” to stop unfair methods of competition call.

“Companies that operate dominant online retail markets can see how small businesses’ products are being sold and then use the data to launch their own competitive products,” the White House said in the EO fact sheet.

“Because they control the platform, they can also showcase their own copycat products more prominently than small company products.”

Sanders, who served as staff director of the Senate Special Committee on Aging for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. until 2022, when she left to join HHS, said in the statement that she wants to drive modernization.

“We know that more competition in the marketplace is a good deal for the American people,” Sanders said, pledging to help “build on the steps the administration has already taken and identify opportunities to further innovation encourage.”


In December, the White House said a cross-government public inquiry would investigate corporate greed in health care. The Biden administration said the acceleration of consolidations in health care markets is leading to that higher costs, lower quality of products and services and reduced access to care – especially in rural areas.

Private assets ownership in the healthcare sector has exploded, with about $750 billion in deals between 2010 and 2020, according to a 2021 report from the American Antitrust Institute and Petros Center.

Overlapping pharmacy benefits platforms worked against a recently failed merger between Cigna and Humana.

Louisville-based Humana manages Medicare drug benefits, and Cigna owns PBM giant Express Scripts, which it bought in 2018. It is looking into this together with Congress PPE reform to help address skyrocketing prescription drug costs, including actions to “promote the uptake, access, and availability of lower-cost biosimilars within the Medicare Part D program,” the The FTC has withdrawn its previous advocacy for PPE.


“As advisor leading HHS’s work to implement the President’s Drug Price Negotiations Act, Stacy has successfully met some of the most difficult challenges facing HHS,” Becerra said in the announcement.

“Her stewardship has made a meaningful difference in helping Americans save money on the cost of their prescription drugs. I look forward to seeing her build on this work and ensure the healthcare marketplace remains competitive.”

Andrea Fox is editor-in-chief of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.