On June 14, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced the first wave of efforts to reform and strengthen the services and information available to the nearly 70 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and the health care providers who serve them.
As part of this effort, Thompson unveiled the new name for the federal agency that administers the Medicare and joint federal-state Medicaid programs -- the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, formerly the Health Care Financing Administration. The new name reflects the increased emphasis at CMS on responsiveness to beneficiaries and providers and on improving the quality of care that beneficiaries receive in all parts of Medicare and Medicaid.
To achieve these goals, CMS will:
l Launch a national media campaign to give seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries more information to help them make informed decisions about how they want to get their health care. This national campaign will highlight health care options, and the information resources available include www.medicare.gov and the free national hotline (800) MEDICARE or (800) 633-4227.
l Instill a new culture of responsiveness at CMS in serving beneficiaries, physicians and other health care providers, states and lawmakers.
l Enhance the national free hotline to a 24-hour, 7 days a week service that will provide far more detailed information to help beneficiaries to make Medicare decisions.
l Reform the contractor process to improve the quality and efficiency of the Medicare claims processing services that pay nearly a billion fee-for-service Medicare claims each year.
l Restructure the federal agency around three centers that reflect the agency's major lines of business: the Center for Beneficiary Choices, the Center for Medicare Management, and the Center for Medicaid and State Operations.
Thompson said that the changes announced on June 14 are only the beginning and that more changes are on the way. "We're going to keep fine-tuning this department so Americans are receiving the highest quality health care possible. Our commitment to excellence in unwavering."
If you have a Medicare question or would like to find out what Medicare publications are available for free, call (800) Medicare (1-800-633-4227), or visit CMS's Web site at www.medicare.gov.