Medicare faces life after McClellan

October 1, 2006

To no one's surprise, Mark McClellan, MD, announced last month that he would leave his job as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) after six years with the Bush Administration.

To no one's surprise, Mark McClellan, MD, announced last month that he would leave his job as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) after six years with the Bush Administration.

This change in leadership comes at a critical time politically.

Although Medicare Part D is up and running and important reforms in Medicaid are in the works, access to affordable healthcare and prescription drugs will be a hot issue in the November Congressional elections and the 2008 presidential campaign. Republicans will want to tout their accomplishments, while Democrats will highlight problems and claim they can do better.

The managed care community applauded his support of private plans in delivering quality care.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

As CMS officials head into a much shorter open enrollment season (only six weeks) for the Medicare drug benefit and for Medicare Advantage plans, they face some of the same challenges that emerged last year:

At the same time, CMS confirmed that Part B premiums will rise 5.6% to $93.50 a month-less than expected, but still a hefty amount. Deductibles and copays for seniors needing hospitalization also will go up, amounting to thousands of dollars for long hospitals stays.

Jill Wechsler, a veteran reporter, has been covering Capitol Hill since 1994.