We’ve learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic on the ways access to comprehensive health care affects our lives and well-being. The availability of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and treatments have saved millions of Americans from sickness and death ̶ because the federal government stepped up to make sure that every person who needs COVID-related care has access to the care they need. But the challenge of the past 19 months has also put an incredible strain on our country’s health care infrastructure and highlighted weaknesses and disparities that cry out for smart and innovative solutions.
I am privileged to lead an organization that is at the forefront not only in the fight against COVID-19, but one that also works tirelessly to ensure the more than 170 million Americans with Marketplace, Medicare or Medicaid coverage know they will be able to get the care they need and deserve.
Our vision is straight forward: “CMS serves the public as a trusted partner and steward, dedicated to advancing health equity, expanding coverage, and improving health outcomes.” How we achieve this vision is through the work of thousands of individuals dedicated to improving people’s lives through public policy aimed at making the U.S. health care system work better for everyone.
As I mark my first 100 days of leading CMS, I think it’s important to lay out my strategy for how the agency will achieve this vision and how we should judge our success. To me, everything we do at CMS should be aligned with one or more of six strategic pillars:
- Advance health equity by addressing the health disparities that underlie our health system
- Build on the Affordable Care Act and expand access to quality, affordable health coverage, and care
- Engage our partners and the communities we serve throughout the policymaking and implementation process
- Drive innovation to tackle our health system challenges and promote value-based, person-centered care
- Protect our programs’ sustainability for future generations by serving as a responsible steward of public funds
- Foster a positive and inclusive workplace and workforce, and promote excellence in all aspects of CMS’s operations
In the short time I have been CMS Administrator, we have already made significant progress on these pillars, focusing our efforts on improving health equity and access to coverage by working across what I call “the three Ms”: Medicare, Medicaid & CHIP, and the ACA Marketplaces. For example:
- We’ve expanded affordable coverage through HealthCare.gov. Thanks to the Special Enrollment Period instituted by President Biden, more than 2.5 million Americans were able to enroll in federal and state marketplaces this year, and millions of new and returning consumers found coverage for $10 or less per month.
- For every decision being made, we’re asking ourselves “how is this action advancing health equity?” That shift in perspective has resulted in a number of actions including a proposed rule to support home care workers’ access to benefits; encouraging states to educate eligible immigrants about Medicaid coverage; and proposing steps to close health equity gaps by providing persons with Medicare battling End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) with greater access to care.
- CMS increased the availability of home-based community services so that seniors and people with disabilities can receive the care they need in their own homes and communities. This included increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations to 1.6 million Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach.
In addition to these policy initiatives, I’ve assembled one of the most experienced and diverse leadership teams in CMS history, bringing decades of federal government, Congressional, advocacy, private-sector, clinical, state-based and previous agency experience together to serve the people who rely on CMS for coverage and care.
We will work tirelessly to address the gaps in the health care system exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of people who rely on our programs, I and the more than 6,000 dedicated professionals who make up CMS are committed to driving innovative solutions to make comprehensive health care more equitable, more accessible, and more affordable.
This article was originally published on the CMS Blog and is republished here with permission.