HCFA Reform Package Includes New Name and Structure
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, acting on his pledge to reform HCFA, announced yesterday that the agency has been renamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and will be reorganized into three divisions to promote greater responsiveness to states, providers and patients, the Washington Post reports. The new name, which beat out such suggestions as the National Health Care Association and the Alliance for Health Care Security, was selected from 800 proposed names submitted by agency employees during a five-day contest. "To give the agency a new direction, a new spirit, it is necessary that we give it a new name," Thompson said, adding, "We are not just changing the name. We are changing the way we do business" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 6/15). The New York Times reports that while Thompson had considered calling the agency the Medicare and Medicaid Administration, or MAMA, he rejected that choice because "women found that acronym insulting" and because it would "reinforce an image of the agency as paternalistic, or in this case maternalistic, at a time when President Bush wants Medicare beneficiaries to take more responsibility for their health insurance options" (Pear, New York Times, 6/15). The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will be given the acronym CMS; addressing the missing letter, HHS spokesperson Tony Jewell said "they are dropping the second M to help your tongue get around it a little better."
Under the reorganization of the agency, CMS will be split into three divisions, which Thompson said "will more clearly reflect its work" and emphasize responsiveness (Washington Post, 6/15). The Center for Medicare Management (CMM) will deal with traditional Medicare, including "development and implementation of payment policy and management of the Medicare carriers and fiscal intermediaries." The Center for Beneficiary Choices (CBC) will focus on Medicare+Choice and providing beneficiaries with information about various supplemental Medicare options. And the Center for Medicaid and State Operations (CMSO) will be left unchanged and will continue to focus on state-federal programs, including Medicaid and CHIP (HCFA release, 6/14).
In addition to the name change, Thompson also announced several new initiatives to improve services and provide more information to beneficiaries and providers. They include:
- A $35 million public information campaign to begin this fall "aimed at helping [beneficiaries] navigate" Medicare and explore their options (
AP/Baltimore Sun, 6/15).
- Expanding the agency's Medicare information line 1-800-MEDICARE to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week "service that will provide far more detailed information to help beneficiaries make Medicare decisions."
- Reforming the agency's contractor process "to improve the quality and efficiency of the Medicare claims processing services." The agency is preparing legislation that would allow for competitive bidding among claims processors using "performance-based incentives" (HHS release, 6/14).
- Developing a plan to rate nursing homes and other facilities that care for seniors and disabled citizens (AP/Baltimore Sun, 6/15).
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