Medicare, Medicaid Reforms, Electronic Health Records Top HHS Agenda, Leavitt Says
Reforming Medicare and Medicaid and creating an electronic health records system will be HHS' top priorities in the coming years, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said on Friday during a tour of CDC facilities, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Leavitt also said the department will establish "a clear priority toward prevention in that prevention is clearly as much a priority as healing."
Leavitt will announce in the next few weeks a 500-day plan, which will serve as the basis of achieving his 5,000-day vision of reforming Medicare and Medicaid. Leavitt said he will rely on his experience as governor of Utah to achieve his goals, adding, "I came to this job with very clear impressions of Medicaid. It kept me as governor from funding things clearly in the interests of people who needed help. I'm going to continue to seek helping people with the resources that we have." Leavitt said he also will pursue former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's efforts to fight obesity, and he urged CDC employees to protect the "CDC brand ... with utmost care" (Yee, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/28).
On Monday, Leavitt announced the following senior staff members appointments.
- Rich McKeown, chief of staff: McKeown previously was chief of staff of the Environmental Protection Agency during Leavitt's tenure there and also held the position in Leavitt's administration while he was governor of Utah.
- Kerry Weems, deputy chief of staff: Weems has been the acting assistant secretary for budget, technology and finance since January 2003 and has worked at HHS for 21 years.
- Jennifer Young, acting senior counselor for health policy: Young previously was appointed to serve as assistant secretary for legislation by President Bush, and she will retain the position until a replacement is found (CQ HealthBeat , 3/28).
- William Raub, acting counselor for science policy: Raub has held a number of roles at HHS, including principal deputy assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness, and has served as deputy director of NIH and as special assistant for health affairs in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (HHS release, 3/28)
- Richard Campanelli, acting counselor for human service policy: Campanelli is director of the Office for Civil Rights and will continue serving in that position.
- Natalie Gochnour, counselor to the secretary: Gochnour has worked with Leavitt in several different roles since 1993, most recently as associate administrator for public affairs at EPA (CQ HealthBeat , 3/28).
Also on Friday, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said the agency's new focus on prevention represents a "turning point" for Medicare, CQ HealthBeat reports. McClellan, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, said prevention efforts will include "benefits that are up-to-date and stay up-to-date with the preventative trends in modern medicine. ... Instead of simply treating disease complications after they occur, Medicare will provide just as much support to proactively preventing diseases and managing conditions before they get worse." Other steps to strengthen Medicare include the new prescription drug benefit and pay-for-performance efforts, according to McClellan.
He added that officials also will investigate the projected growth of Medicare Part B costs, which are expected to increase by more than 10% annually. However, he said that the costs of the program, which are expected to double in the next 10 years, "aren't the main issue." He added that the prescription drug benefit "builds that essential link between financial sustainability and high-quality care." McClellan said he also will work to increase enrollment in the Medicare Advantage program (CQ HealthBeat , 3/28).
CMS also named Dan Schreiner as Medicare's first ombudsman, a position that was created by the Medicare law. Schreiner will be responsible for overseeing beneficiaries' concerns regarding Medicare. Currently, he in an independent health care policy consultant and has previously worked in federal and state health agencies, including three years as a health insurance specialist in the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Health Resources Services Administration (CQ HealthBeat , 3/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.