Maintaining the integrity of Medicare is among the 10 top management and performance challenges facing the Department of Health and Human Services in 2017.
The rising number of Medicare beneficiaries paired with increasing per capita healthcare costs threatens the solvency of the Trust fund for Part A, according to the agency's report. The fund is expected to be depleted in 2028 if nothing changes, according to the Medicare Board of Trustees. And Part B cost growth is expected to top 7 percent over the next five years.
But depletion of funds doesn’t equate to insolvency either; fact checkers have pointed out that aspects of the Affordable Care Act have strengthened the short-term financial outlook of Medicare.
HHS identifies a few avenues for mitigating the issue:
- reducing improper payments
- cutting back on fraud
- improving payment processes
The challenges arise across programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Public Health Service and the Indian Health Service, HHS notes. They cover critical HHS responsibilities that include delivering quality services and benefits, exercising sound fiscal management, safeguarding public health and safety, and enhancing cybersecurity.
The 10 challenges that made this year's list are:
- Ensuring program integrity in Medicare Parts A and B
- Effectively administering the Medicaid program to improve oversight of managed care, address high improper payments and strengthen program integrity
- Health information technology and the meaningful and secure exchange and use of electronic information
- Improving financial and administrative management
- Ensuring the proper administration of HHS grants for public health and human services programs
- Curbing the abuse and misuse of controlled and noncontrolled drugs in Medicare Part D and Medicaid
- Ensuring quality of care and safety for vulnerable populations
- Operating and overseeing the health insurance marketplaces
- Managing delivery system reform and strengthening Medicare Advantage
- Ensuring the safety of food, drugs and medical devices
"In this presidential transition year, HHS must address these challenges while undertaking the additional important responsibility of conducting a well-orchestrated transition to new leadership, consistent with the executive order on 'Facilitation of a Presidential Transition' and other requirements," HHS adds. "The transition will require heightened focus on effective coordination across HHS operating divisions, continuity of operations and emergency preparedness. This transition must be accomplished while maintaining and strengthening HHS's many complex programs and protecting and serving its beneficiaries."