The Biden administration wants to improve customer service at the federal level by requiring agencies to design and deliver services – including health care – in an accessible, equitable, and efficient way.
President Joe Biden recently signed an omnibus executive order that directs 17 federal agencies to commit to 36 customer service improvements, including making it easier for people to apply for the services and benefits to which they are entitled.
“The bottom line is we’re going to make the government work more effectively for the American citizens so it’s not as confusing, and it’s straightforward,” he said in a Dec. 13, 2021, speech.
The order has far-reaching implications for health care, spanning telemedicine access, maternal health benefits, and prescription drug costs. According to a White House fact sheet, it will:
- Increase access to telehealth services, especially for patients in rural areas and those who have disabilities;
- Grant more patients automatic access to their electronic prenatal, birth, and postpartum health records;
- Strengthen maternal health quality measures, including accounting for race and ethnicity, to address inequities in service delivery and patient outcomes;
- Connect Medicare recipients over 65 to online tools that can help save money on prescription drugs, manage their health care, access customer support, and streamline their enrollment with the Social Security Administration; and
- Allow veterans, their beneficiaries and caregivers, and other designated representatives to manage their health care and benefits online using a single online interface or mobile app.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it will take six to 12 months for the federal agencies to implement these changes.
The order also raises some questions, according to Texas Medical Association staff. For instance, it doesn’t provide details about how the Biden administration will expand access to telehealth services or what such an expansion will mean for physician payment.
In addition to these directives, the order designates the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as one of 35 “high-impact service providers” across federal agencies, which were chosen because of the volume and types of benefits, services, and programs they deliver to the public, according to the fact sheet. High-impact service providers have committed to improving customer service by modernizing programs, reducing administrative burdens, and piloting new online tools.
In a Jan. 11, 2022, Health Affairs blog post, CMS leaders mapped out their plans for advancing “high quality, person-centered care,” some of which will impact physicians. They include:
- Using technology and devices to promote access to health care services;
- Ensuring Medicare materials are easy to understand and available in more languages;
- Expanding data collection, reporting, and analysis to identify disparities and track improvements;
- Looking for ways to ease the Medicare enrollment process and eliminate coverage delays;
- Testing new payment and service delivery models; and
- Helping Medicare patients and their physicians provide more input into how quality care models are implemented.
“Medicare is the bedrock of our nation’s health system and wields tremendous influence on how our health system operates,” they wrote. “Achieving our goals in Medicare will have an outsize influence on the rest of our health system.”