A vow from the CMS acting head to make the agency more accountable to the healthcare community was greeted with open arms by industry representatives.
In a meeting with reporters last week discussing his plans for the CMS, Kerry Weems, its new acting administrator and President Bushs nominee for the position permanently, said that he wanted to make the CMS more transparent. If we have a policy, I want it done in the daylight, Weems said.
He also promised to make all corrective actions between the CMS and Medicare Advantage plans public on the agencys Web site, and that hell be stepping up oversight and compliance within the agency and stepping up development of personal health records.
Its bold talk for an agency that has been criticizedfairly or notfor burying controversial rules and regulations, banishing them to publication either in late-in-the-day hours or holding them until Friday afternoon when reporters and others have little time to fully take them in.
Still, he spurred glowing reviews from those who work closely with the CMS. We certainly welcome his call for increased transparency within the agency, said Carmela Coyle, senior vice president of policy at the American Hospital Association. It really seems that this may be the next step.
Coyle also lauded Weems stated commitment to boosting healthcare quality and fostering the use of information technology throughout the industry. Those are critical to the hospital field, she said.
Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said he was confident that Weems would be a competent leader. More transparency is always healthy, he said in an interview.
The CMS took some heat for both the timing and content of the Sept. 7 release of its decision to reject New Yorks plan to expand its State Childrens Health Insurance Program.
The New York decision was based on a policy that tightened SCHIP eligibility for children from higher-income families. The policy caused a great deal of angst, but its main purpose was to take the poorest of kids and kids without insurance and put them at the front of the line, Weems said. We could have done a better job of explaining that.
To enhance compliance and oversight of the agency, Weems said he would be meeting with every senior CMS manager to review the contractual arrangements they have with agency partners. And despite opposition from providers, patient advocates and members of Congress, Weems is ready to hold steady with the CMS approach to SCHIP.
Weems also will face added congressional scrutiny regarding the CMS plans to increase the use of hospital pay-for-performance programs. Last week, Senate leaders asked the CMS to release a series of pending reports on hospital value-based purchasing. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the committees senior Republican, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), called the information critical to both pending and future legislation, if needed.
Weems said the value-based purchasing report is forthcoming.