Name change among reforms sought for Medicare agency

The Bush administration plans to unveil a major package of Health Care Financing Administration reforms--including a name change and a new attitude--in the next few weeks, the agency's new administrator said Monday. HCFA Administrator Thomas Scully said he and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson are working closely on the plan. Scully said some of the ideas "may shake up the world, but I think that's what HCFA needs." Speaking to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce briefing, Scully said a name change was needed to reflect a new way of doing business. He suggested HCFA could become known as MMA, or the Medicare and Medicaid Administration, but would most likely not be known as MAMA--an acronym Thompson floated earlier this year. In fact, Scully sent out a letter asking for new name suggestions to some HCFA employees last week. Another potential change for HCFA is to increase the education of seniors about Medicare, particularly the Medicare+Choice plans run largely by managed care organizations that provide the prescription drugs the regular Medicare program does not. This could include advertising and making more accessible information about providers already on HCFA's Web site. "My goal is to ensure 30 percent [of Medicare recipients] are enrolled in Medicare+Choice by 2005," Scully told reporters. Scully also suggested that Medicaid probably would not be removed from HCFA, and that reforms in that area will be dealt with when the Welfare to Work bill comes up for reauthorization. Other priorities for the administration will be to pass HCFA reforms with a prescription drug benefit, said Sally Canfield, counselor to the HHS secretary, who also spoke at the Chamber briefing. "We can't let this Congress go without giving it a try," she said, acknowledging that challenges will arise once the Democrats gain control of the Senate this week. Canfield also said the administration is eager to pass tax credits to help the uninsured and keep patients' rights legislation from focusing unnecessarily on litigation. It is also looking to more cooperative agreements with the industry to advance research and development.
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