Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More news on Medicare Health Support: Mass. Senator Kerry weighs in.....

According to DMAA eNews Feb 12:

"An influential Senate lawmaker last week told a health policy publication that he would consider legislation to keep Medicare Health Support (MHS) operational past the scheduled end of the pilot's first phase.

If he succeeds, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., would block a recent and controversial decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to end the pilot this year without providing continuity of services to the 68,000 beneficiaries in MHS. In an unexpected announcement Jan. 29, CMS said it would begin closing out five MHS programs this summer as each reached the end of the three-year Phase I pilot. Transition to a second phase could be delayed up to three years while CMS evaluates Phase I results, the agency said.

In an e-mail last week to the online newsletter Inside CMS, Kerry blasted the CMS decision and pledged to explore a legislative remedy. "This hold-up places red tape right over a solution that works for 68,000 seniors who rely on this program for the care they need," Kerry told the publication.

"The Bush Administration complains that we aren't doing enough to control costs, yet they are halting a promising pilot mid-stream, cutting seniors off at the knees," Kerry told Inside CMS. "The government should be encouraging solutions that help solve our nation's healthcare crisis, and I am looking at legislative options to fix this short-sighted decision."

DMAA and others decried the CMS decision, saying it will strand thousands of Medicare beneficiaries and their physicians without important chronic care coordination support. "These beneficiaries, as well as their providers and family caregivers, enthusiastically welcomed these services, as evidenced by participation rates, satisfaction measures and a demonstrated willingness to take important steps toward better health," DMAA President and CEO Tracey Moorhead said in a Jan. 30 statement.

Further, DMAA argued, the CMS claim of poor Phase I results is not supported by the findings of an interim MHS report last year and serious flaws in the program design and operation have hampered Medicare Health Support Organizations' efforts."

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