Medicare agency announces office for 'dual eligibles'

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday afternoon the creation of a new office to coordinate care for millions of individuals simultaneously enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The new healthcare reform law authorized a new office to oversee so-called "dual eligibles," which include some of the most expensive patient populations to care for. Dual eligibles - basically the low-income elderly - account for roughly 25 to 45 percent of spending in Medicare and Medicaid, respectively, but they make up less than 20 percent of enrollment for either program.

According to the CMS announcement, the new Federal Coordinated Health Care Office (CHCO) will focus on:

• Fostering overall improvements in the quality of healthcare and long-term services for individuals who are dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare;

• Simplifying processes for dual eligible individuals to access items and services available to them;

• Increasing dual eligible individuals’ understanding of and satisfaction with coverage under the Medicare and Medicaid programs;

• Eliminating regulatory conflicts between rules under the Medicare and Medicaid programs; and

• Improving coordination between the federal government and the states.

The CHCO will be led by Melanie Bella, who was previously senior vice president for policy and operations at the Center for Health Care Strategies.