Last week, the Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights) submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on their draft strategic plan for 2018-2022. The draft document sets out HHS’s priorities and goals for the next four years, and it identifies areas of focus and activities HHS will undertake to achieve these goals.
Medicare Rights applauds many of the goals and priorities set forth in the document, including promoting preventive care; strengthening informed decision-making; reducing disparities in quality, safety, and access to healthcare; expanding the healthcare workforce; building capacity and promoting collaboration to reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders; and strengthening supports for community living. These, and other priorities in the HHS strategic plan, align with the experiences and priorities of many of the people who contact Medicare Rights’ helpline.
The comments identify areas in which the strategic plan could be stronger or more specific, and where critical protections for beneficiaries are missing. In particular, the comments focus on affordability, urging HHS to include actions and objectives to ensure that low-income programs to assist with Medicare costs, for example, are well known and well administered.
Medicare Rights also raises concerns about the limited reference to the agency’s oversight and audit functions, stating that “all Americans, but most especially the older adults and persons with disabilities who rely on Medicare and Medicaid, count on HHS to carefully monitor the performance of the providers and health plans under its jurisdiction. With the increasing number of consumers in Medicare and Medicaid managed care and in Marketplace plans subject to HHS jurisdiction, it is particularly important that HHS ensure that plans deliver what they promise.”
Finally, the comments highlight that more could be done in the strategic plan to explicitly recognize the link between anti-discrimination protections and improving health equity and to more fully commit the agency to enforcing anti-discrimination laws.