The announcement last week by Donald M. Berwick that he will step down Dec. 2 as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the selection of Marilyn Tavenner, his principal deputy, as his successor, raises many questions—about not just the future of Medicare and Medicaid, but also oversight of the wider health system.
Consumers won't have to pay taxes on rebates they receive when health insurers exceed medical loss ratio (MLR) standards governing the percentage of premium revenue they must spend on medical care and quality improvement activities, under interim final regulations issued last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle joined two Senate Democrats in calling attention to rising enrollment and falling premiums in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program—results contrary to Republican predictions of what would happen to the program under the health law.
Federal officials are determined to get health care providers to buy in to new health information technology (IT) as a way to improve quality and save money. In an effort to get broader participation in that program, Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that she is pushing back the deadline for physicians and hospitals to meet new standards until 2014.
Even with a legal challenge to the health care law awaiting oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, planning for exchanges continued to move ahead last week with an announcement of $220 million more in federal grants for 13 states.
While saying Medicare and Medicaid cuts from federal budget sequestration are unlikely to be implemented, momentum is building throughout the health care system for major changes in financing in both the public and private sectors, experts recently agreed. Nevertheless, they added, serious discussion on a system overhaul is unlikely until after the November elections.