CMS Responds to Criticism About Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Education Efforts
CMS is making full use of the $1 billion allocated to the agency to implement the new Medicare law and is working to educate beneficiaries about the new prescription drug benefit, CMS Deputy Administrator Leslie Norwalk said on Tuesday, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 4/19). CMS on Monday drew criticism from an unnamed House Republican aide who said the agency has failed to produce a detailed plan on how it is working to educate Medicare beneficiaries about the benefit.
In remarks at a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the aide said that Congress allocated $1 billion to CMS to implement the new Medicare law, but the agency this year has spent only $600 million -- less than in fiscal year 2004 -- to educate beneficiaries about the law's provisions. The aide said CMS needs to "get their house in order" and "step up to the plate" (California Healthline, 4/19).
Speaking at the PCMA meeting, Norwalk acknowledged that CMS has "a lot of work to do in terms of awareness" and said that the agency has many of the same concerns about the education efforts. However, she added that CMS has given Congress "all sorts of information" about how it is promoting the new drug benefit and is using appropriate resources to educate beneficiaries.
She added that the agency has been "less than public" about its plans because otherwise they tend to become "set in stone." Norwalk said, "We want to keep some of the money so we can be more fluid with it." Norwalk also outlined a "grassroots and grasstops strategy" that CMS is using to educate beneficiaries that includes tools ranging from "high-tech" -- including the Internet -- to "low-tech" -- such as working through churches and fairs. She added that CMS also is working to develop a consistent message to give beneficiaries (CQ HealthBeat, 4/19).