Medicare chief affirms that health care needs more transparency for consumers

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The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has talked about how healthcare needs to get in line with other industries that are making life easier for customers and dulling out many benefits. Seema Verma, The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), was making a point at how the healthcare industry lacks transparency to its customers and not making costs as up front as they should be. She also added that consumers within the healthcare industry show have more access to their records once their care is either over on in the process. Verma stated for some reason healthcare data remains a huge mystery when it comes to sharing data with consumers. This should not be the case in her opinion.

She shared her opinion in a formal interview while attending the World Health Care Congress in Washington,DC as the main speaker. She further stated they have begun to request hospitals list all prices up front on their sites. However, she did admit this will take some time. In 2017, her agency’s main focus was on the repeal of Obamacare. Yet, in the last few months, they honed in on developing a handful of proposals targeted at bringing awareness to more exchanges of health records digitally.

There is a requirement that doctors must write the electronic prescriptions to medicare patients. CMS has a goal to where those very records that are stored digitally are easier for patients to obtain. Verma stated, “wouldn’t it be great to imagine if you could collect all of your health information beginning from your birth up until your current life?” That’s the mission CMS is on, bringing patient healthcare data together and putting it in one location. It’s noted that healthcare officials will hear from industry stakeholders as well as the public on these proposed information rules in a few months. Last week, the comment session was shut down regarding the proposals to give insurers the opportunity to sell short-term plans that didn’t have to abide by the coverage regulations under Obamacare.

The proposal itself was hit with a vast amount of comments. It seems many health insurance groups felt short-term plans could undermine and disregard younger and more healthy consumers who wouldn’t get a penalty by the 2019 enrollment of non-compliant plans. Verma did not confirm the introduction of short-term plans for the Fall and meeting the open enrollment deadline. She further stood by her rejection of arguments by critics, that her organization was undermining Obamacare in the market, especially since they were just getting back on track in the past year. Verma says there is a need to move fast, but we must consider the processing time and getting through all of the comments they have received. She added that ultimately there is a skyrocketing of insurance premiums and a large amount of people that can’t pay for them.

It is expected that President Donald Trump will reveal some new proposals that will tackle the rising prices of drugs. The 2019 administration budget clearly shows in it’s proposal that Medicare part D plans, normally for seniors, give them more leverage in negotiating to bring down prices from manufacturers. It further requests that state Medicaid programs should have the ability to examine drug collections geared at obtaining more competing prices.

Massachusetts has requested to use a medicaid waiver its own set of formulary to negotiate prices over the existing discount for what they call the safety net program. At this point, it’s not clear whether or not the administration has decided to give them that waiver. However, Verma will consider all key issues when it comes to approving any state request. She states that they examine every waiver to help states get in the direction they want to go and achieve their set objectives. She commented that the biggest factor is planned savings, so it’s imperative to look at budget neutrality that doesn’t go over the costs the federal government has in mind for the federal plan. Verma did confirm that her agency could share more about the proposals in the following months.

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