« The Dual Agenda: January 8, 2015 Issue

Noteworthy News

MMCO Director Bella Departing in January

Melanie Bella, who has headed the Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office (MMCO) since 2010, has announced she will be leaving the agency on January 23. As director of MMCO, Bella has overseen programs to coordinate care for Americans covered by both Medicare and Medicaid, including the dual eligible demonstration projects. Tim Engelhardt, currently director of the Models, Demonstrations and Analysis Group within MMCO, will take over as acting director, upon Bella’s departure.

Ms. Bella’s announcement came within two weeks of news that Cindy Mann, CMS' deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program Services, would be departing the agency.

New Medicare-Medicaid Integration Toolkit from CHCS

The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) has compiled an online toolkit that focuses specifically on Medicare-Medicaid integration. The toolkit includes resources to help states seeking to integrate care for dual eligibles through a variety of vehicles, including financial alignment demonstrations, Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans, managed long-term services and supports programs, etc. This toolkit may also be useful to health plans, providers and other stakeholders interested in learning more about designing and implementing new models of care for dually eligible beneficiaries.

Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program Update

The Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP) published an update about the development of their technical assistance program. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the IAP in July 2014 with the goal of improving health and health care for Medicaid beneficiaries by supporting states’ efforts to create new payment and service delivery reforms. The IAP selected Substance Use Disorders (SUD) as its first program area, and letters of interest have been submitted by 26 states eager to participate in the program’s technical assistance opportunities. The SUD technical assistance program will launch in a small group of selected states in February 2015. The IAP also announced that it has selected three additional program priorities: super-utilizers of health care services; community integration to support LTSS; and physical/mental health integration. These technical assistance programs will launch in the spring, summer and fall of 2015.

Measuring Quality Remains a Work in Progress

An article from American Health Line provides an assessment of the progress that the U.S. health care system has made toward accurately measuring quality of care. Measuring quality is an important part of the Affordable Care Act, and certainly a key element of the dual eligible demonstrations. Determining effective ways to measure quality is critical to insuring that the demonstrations actually improve the quality of care this vulnerable population receives, rather than simply reducing costs by reducing care. As this article makes clear, some progress has been made in quality measurement, but there is still much more needed.. The article discusses issues such as looking at too many metrics, standardizing the reporting of quality measures, the science of risk adjustment, and the need to focus on patient experience.

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