Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comments on Director Blum's Message at the CMS Fall Conference

As noted in our previous blog post, Merrill Corp attended the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 2010 Fall Conference earlier this month. On Day 2, before sessions on Customer Service Monitoring, QIP/CCIP Expectations and a panel on 2010 audits by the CMS Central Office Representatives, Deputy Administrator and Center for Medicare Director Jonathan Blum gave a presentation to the health plans in attendance.

Blum, who we have posted about in the past, made several key points, with the most interesting being his comments on marketing materials (CMS will be closely monitoring them to ensure accuracy and honesty) and on the change in way CMS interacts with health plans (in reaction to comments from some plans on feeling that CMS has greatly changed the way it interacts and partners with them, he confirmed that yes, there has been a change and that it is intentional). Additionally, he covered a wide-range of topics, including:
  • Enrollment
  • Surveillance Activities
  • 2011 Selling Season
  • Health Reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Plan Sponsor's Responsibilities
  • Plan Risk and protection of beneficiaries
  • CMS Communication to beneficiaries 
From Merrill Corp's perspective, we commend the director's statements and feel that is in parallel with Merrill's philosophy on compliance-driven communications. In the coming weeks, we will dive deeper into these discussion points and provide insight on how Merrill Corp can assist with the upcoming changes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Notes from the CMS Fall 2010 Conference


Merrill Healthcare Team just wrapped up attending the CMS Fall 2010 Conference in sunny Baltimore and in addition to an excellent crab cake (ok...crab cakes 'cause who can eat just one!) what great information about all things healthcare! While all the speakers were great, the highlight of the conference was the opportunity to listen to newly appointed Director of CMS, Jonathan Blum.

Among the many topics covered at this conference were:

Enrollment Policy / Operations and Part D IRMAA

~ End of year transitions and
MARx Activity & Enhancements with MARx Redesign & Modernization Overview

Customer Service Monitoring

Mandatory Compliance Programs

2010 Marketing Guidelines & AEP Surveillance

A common theme that emerged across these presentations underscored the continual state of change we as Healthcare communicators will be dealing with well beyond 2014. Additionally, compliance-driven communications and
CMS oversights will continue to challenge us in our member communications. Increased marketing surveillance and auditing are here to stay!

As we continue to grasp and operationalize the information gained, the
Merrill platform for member and prospect communications will continue to set our customers apart; both to CMS and to their members.

More detailed information to come once I get a chance to digest everything I learned this week!


Pam Argeris is a thought leader in the Healthcare Industry and possesses extensive, hands-on experience with CMS compliance, and multiple regulatory bodies such as NCQA, JACHO, and DOI. In her role at Merrill Corp., Pam focuses on developing solutions for compliance and quality assurance, delivered in a cost effective manner to improve beneficiary and prospect communications. You can contact Pam at

Friday, September 3, 2010

CMS's Recent Rulings

On June 4 of this year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the third and final chapter of the Medicare Marketing Guidelines. Over the next couple weeks, we will be telling you more about these changes, who they affect and how those people are affected.

Some of the more interesting and notable changes include requirements for plan sponsors with non-English speaking populations and populations with special needs. For example, a new ruling states that ID cards for Medicare Beneficiaries are excluded from translation requirements and only need to be produced in English. Additionally, the new guidelines state:

“Plan sponsors must make their marketing materials available in any language that is the primary language of more than ten percent of a plan sponsor’s service area. Additionally, plan sponsors must place translated versions of these materials on the plan’s website. Also, all plan sponsors’ call centers must be able to accommodate non-English speaking/reading beneficiaries. Plan sponsors must have appropriate interpreter services available to call center personnel to answer questions from non-English speaking beneficiaries.”

The role of social networking has been in constant debate regarding healthcare and pharma companies recently with regards to how companies can use sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to market their products. Now, CMS will allow plan sponsors to market their products via social networking websites, but CMS will carefully monitor use of social networking sites to inform potential future revisions to this policy.