The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services held their Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Fall Conference & Webcast yesterday in the pleasantly comfortable city of Baltimore, MD. Collaboration and transparency seemed to be themes in the various sessions, covering topics such as the enhancement of Independent Review Entity data reporting, integration policies for 2021 Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans, and one-third financial audits. Currently, all session information is in the Upcoming/Current Events section of CMS’ website but it is anticipated it will move to Event Archives, along with video recordings of each session to follow in the future.
A blended panel of CMS and health plan representatives provided advice and specific practices on accessible communications. The speakers were well-prepared and provided many suggestions and examples during their allotted time, such as: interpreters via video, centralized database for member communications preferences, listening to live calls to ensure call center representatives are capturing communication requests, quarterly regression testing on websites, and hosting an inclusion and diversity week. One panelist effectively summed up the spirit of the session suggesting not to only think about the requirement, but to put the consumer first.
While not explicitly stated, accessible communications practices can and should be leveraged by sponsor partners such as delegates, providers, and community agencies participating in the MA-PD program. As I mentioned in a previous post, CMS released best practices regarding communications accessibility. No, these requirements may not be in the ever-present program audit protocol, but this is just as important of a focus area. If a member is not able to interact with their plan, how can they effectively access their benefits and services? My advice: assign one of your most creative employees to think of innovative ways to ensure equal access regardless of abilities.
The keynote delivered by Demetrios Kouzoukas, Principal Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare, included glowing statistics regarding the state of Medicare Advantage and Part D. He acknowledged even with the many improvements completed (such as broadening benefits, streamlining the materials process, and implementing new legislation), the agency is not resting on laurels. He said the administration will continue to protect the program and build on elements that work well. Based on the messaging, this next year looks to be a continuation of collaboration and transparency for CMS.