Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The State of the Union, Health Reform and the Need for a CMS Administrator: The Time is Now

No doubt, at the time of this posting, the President and his aides are huddling over the upcoming State of the Union Address. Barring any more outbursts from the now emboldened Republican members of Congress, the Disease Management Care Blog thinks one of the more dramatic moments of the speech will be the unveiling of Mr. Obama’s reconfigured health policies. Will he go for broke and push for passage of an unchanged Senate bill? Will he go opaque with vague bromides about access and quality? Will he go on a populist anti-insurer bender and announce that there’s a new sheriff in town? Will he grin, turn and high-five with Ms. Pelosi and declare the dream will never die? Will he offer a bipartisan man-hug to the Republicans?

Stay tuned!

And, while all this is going on, there are rumors that an Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ('CMS') is about to be nominated.


The DMCB appreciates that the folks in the White House may be somewhat distracted with a host of health reform details, but that isn’t going to stop it from giving Team Obama some start-of-the-second-year-of-the-term advice:

It's been too long. It's time to get a duly empowered Administrator to lead the Department of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

While the current Acting Administrator is certainly qualified, let’s face it: if CMS is truly going to be an active partner-participant in state and national efforts at health reform, it needs a leader that not only passes muster with Congress but with the American people. The optimistic DMCB also thinks that the confirmation process could - emphasis on could - be an important opportunity to kick-start a stalled bipartisan dialog on health reform.

What’s more, it appears to the DMCB that, up until now, the White House’s health policies have been largely represented by the very intelligent but, let’s face it, lawyerly bureaucrat, Ms. Nancy DeParle. While she certainly has her capable hands full outside of the public eye, it's been too easy for those of us outside of the beltway to conclude that the President's health reform efforts have gone from disengaged to rudderless. What's more, CMS has been curiously lacking in innovation, flexibility and leadership. Case in point? The Lifemasters fiasco. There has never been a greater need for the Agency to adopt a broadminded approach to modern population-based care management than now.

Here's to a CMS Administrator nomination that showcases a commitment to meaningful health reform and the return of a CMS that is a credit to the American people.

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