|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:||HHS Press|
|Friday, Aug. 3, 2001||Office|
STATEMENT BY HHS SECRETARY TOMMY G. THOMPSON
REGARDING THE INTRODUCTION OF THE
JOHNSON-STARK MEDICARE PROPOSAL
Strengthening Medicare is one of the most important issues facing America. While continuing to provide services to 40 million Americans, the program needs to be modernized to meet the challenges of the 21st century, including adding a prescription drug benefit. We need to ensure that beneficiaries are well served and providers continue to participate in the program. That is why earlier this year we began the process of reducing regulatory and bureaucratic burdens and to create greater efficiencies in the Medicare program.
We applaud the effort and hard work of Reps. Nancy Johnson and Pete Stark in drafting a bipartisan bill that builds on the initiatives underway across HHS to improve the working relationship between our programs and patients and providers who participate in them.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began the process of reforming and strengthening the services and information available to the nearly 40 million Medicare beneficiaries and the health care providers who serve them. We emphasized greater responsiveness to beneficiaries and providers and improving the quality of care that beneficiaries receive in all parts of Medicare. These initial efforts include:
- enhancing the status of the Medicare 1-800 number to be a 24 hours a day, seven days a week service that will provide more detailed information; - restructuring the agency to better serve Medicare's beneficiaries and providers; and
- a national media campaign to give seniors more information to help them make decisions about their health care.
Recently we opened the doors of CMS, established provider task forces and committed ourselves to greater communication. Reps. Johnson's and Stark's legislation continues this effort by enabling doctors to spend more time with patients, not forms, and proposes a competitive bidding process for contractor services that will enable Medicare to be more responsive to beneficiaries and providers.
We look forward to working with all those committees in the House and Senate and members of Congress who are willing to engage in a bipartisan manner to make Medicare work better for the 21st century.
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