Health Insurance Agency Gets New Name, Structure
By: Amy Goldstein
Former HCFA Reorganizing Into Three Service 'Centers'
The Health Care Financing Administration -- the corner of the federal government that, perhaps more than any other, politicians loved to hate -- is a relic of the past.
As of yesterday, the agency that handles public health insurance for 70 million poor, elderly and disabled Americans has a new name, after a five-day contest among agency employees.
The 800 suggestions that poured in included the National Health Care Administration, the Administration for Federal Medical Insurance Programs, the Alliance for Health Care Security, Quality and Choice, and the Medicare/Medicaid Beneficiary Bureau.
Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, who had proposed getting rid of the old name and its acronym, HCFA, said the change will symbolize "a new culture of responsiveness."
Thompson announced that the agency will be reorganized into three divisions, which he said will more clearly reflect its work.
One division, to be known as the Center for Beneficiary Choices, will focus on the segment of Medicare patients who belong to private health plans -- a segment that the Bush administration would like to substantially expand. The center, Thompson said, will help provide elderly Americans willing to join an HMO "information they need to make the best choice possible in choosing care."
A second division, to be known as the Center for Medicare Management, will run the traditional "fee-for-service" version of the insurance program, in which patients select doctors on their own.
The third branch, the Center for Medicaid and State Operations, will handle Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which are shared responsibilities of the federal government and states.
All three centers, Thompson said, will strive to become less bureaucratic and more helpful to states, providers of health care and especially patients.
But there was at least one piece of evidence yesterday that the agency will remain a standard bureaucracy. The new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services already has an acronym: CMS.
In keeping with the agency's new, consumer-friendly ethos, however, HHS spokesman Tony Jewell said, "they are dropping the second M to help your tongue get around it a little better."
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