Increased Coordination Between CMS, IHS Could Improve Quality of Care for American Indians, GAO Report Finds
Increased coordination between CMS and the Indian Health Service could improve the quality of health care provided to American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Monday, CQ HealthBeat reports. For the report, GAO examined documents, interviewed government officials and visited some American Indian tribes and facilities funded by IHS to determine the level of coordination between CMS and IHS. The report also examined problems with Medicare and Medicaid enrollment for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
According to the report, CMS could improve communication of policy changes that would affect facilities funded by IHS. The report recommended that CMS inform IHS about policy changes early in the development process to allow time for review of proposed rules before public comment periods end. CMS has begun to improve efforts to identify policy changes that would affect facilities funded by IHS, the report found. In addition, the report found that some coordination occurs between CMS and IHS, such as an effort by the agency to train staff at facilities funded by IHS on Medicare and Medicaid issues.
In a statement, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "This report shows us that there are still hurdles that keep all Americans from getting the best health care available, regardless of which agencies help them get it," adding, "We shouldn't let the distance between IHS and CMS get in the way of quality, affordable health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives" (Blair Wyckoff, CQ HealthBeat, 8/11).
The report is available online (.pdf).