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HCFA isn't HCFA anymore.

Name change symbolizes reform

THE FEDERAL AGENCY FORMERLY KNOWN as HCFA is now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Its new acronym is CMS.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and HCFA Administrator Thomas Scully unveiled the new name as a first step in an agency-wide overhaul designed to improve quality of care and responsiveness to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and providers.

"We're making quality of care the number-one priority in this agency," said Secretary Thompson in a statement. "These sweeping reforms will strengthen our programs and enable our dedicated employees to better serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries as well as health care providers. We're going to encourage innovation, better educate consumers about their options, and be more responsive to the health care needs of Americans."

To achieve these goals, CMS has announced that it will:

* launch a $35 million national media campaign to better inform seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries of their health care options;

* enhance 1-800-MEDICARE to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week service that will provide more detailed information to help beneficiaries make Medicare decisions;

* create a "culture of responsiveness" at CMS in serving beneficiaries, health care providers, states, and lawmakers;

* reform the contractor process to improve the quality and efficiency of the Medicare claims-processing services;

* restructure the agency around, three new business entities: the Center for Medicare Management, the Center for Beneficiary Choices, and the Center for Medicaid and State Operations.

Provider associations are optimistic

"We are very enthusiastic that Secretary Thompson is looking at strategies for making changes and improvements in the agency," says Bruce Rosenthal, a spokesman for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Rosenthal adds that among Secretary Thompson's most promising announcements is the possibility of incorporating single-task nursing home workers specifically trained to perform jobs such as feeding or transfer of residents. "Secretary Thompson has seen that model work effectively in Wisconsin," says Rosenthal. "This is not just a way for nursing homes to cut costs-it's a way to provide better one-on-one care to their residents."

The American Health Care Association (MICA) has also praised Secretary Thompson and Administrator Scully for their plans to create a more user-friendly agency. AHCA President and CEO Charles H. Roadman II, MD, has stated that, "There exists a clear need to streamline the HCFA bureaucracy. Rules and regulations must be uniform and consistent across the nation."
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Author:BILYEU, SUZANNE
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:390
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