CMS Administrator Nominee Vows To Boost Oversight
CMS Administrator nominee Kerry Weems, at a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, said if confirmed, he would improve oversight of the agency and especially of Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plan providers, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 7/26).
Weems said, "My vision for Medicare and Medicaid is one in which beneficiaries are protected -- whether from unsafe nursing homes, unscrupulous insurance sales people, fraudulent equipment providers or bad medicine," adding, "If confirmed, I will intensify CMS oversight, and I expect you to hold me responsible for acting on abuses or inefficiencies discovered in the course of program oversight" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Weems should pay special attention to MA marketing practices that might be misleading. Wyden said, "What concerns me is seniors are getting ripped off. It is also giving a bad name to private-sector health care."
Weems also said one of the first problems he would address if confirmed is a computer glitch that is causing erroneous Medicare premium deductions from some beneficiaries' Social Security checks (The Hill, 7/26). In addition, Weems said he would be responsive to requests from Congress for information about CMS programs, saying that Congress "will have the same information that I do" (CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).
Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) raised concerns about political activities undertaken by the CMS administrator, citing recent testimony by former Surgeon General Richard Carmona that his work was stifled by political appointees. Baucus said that he has "longstanding concerns" about CMS staging political events.
Weems said, "I have on many, many occasions resisted political pressure" (The Hill, 7/26). He added, "I would not let my office be used for that purpose" (CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).
Weems also answered questions that were "focused on narrow and technical issues," including reimbursement rates to hospitals and other health care providers (The Hill, 7/26).