200801.07
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CMS is keeping regional offices

Contrary to the Federal Register notice of Dec. 28, 2007, the 10 Regional Offices of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are not being abolished after all. CMS had announced in the Federal Register that its Regional Offices were being abolished. The notice stated that “Part F of the Statement of Organization, Functions, and Delegations of Authority for [CMS] . . . is amended to reflect the abolishment of the 10 Regional Offices.”

In fact, the notice was intended to convey only that the Regional Office organizational codes are being abolished. CMS Chief Operating Officer Charlene Frizzera emphasized this in a clarifying e-mail sent to CMS staff Jan. 4, 2008. “The valuable services that the ROs provide to our beneficiaries and other stakeholders,” Frizzera wrote, “continue to be provided from the same 10 ROs, but now these services are provided under the field reorganization we announced to staff in February of 2007. . . . None of the Regional Office employees and/or managers in the 10 regional offices have been moved.”

The reorganization creates four Consortium Administrators who will manage the core lines of business of CMS in the field: Medicare Health Plans Operations, Financial Management and Fee for Service Operations, Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations, and Quality Improvement and Survey and Certification Operations. The remaining six Regional Administrator positions have the responsibility of leading outreach efforts with stakeholders in the 10 cities where the ROs are located.

It appears that this reorganization will have no effect on beneficiaries and stakeholders. It will result in “[n]o change at all for day-to-day contacts,” said Peter Ashkenaz, Deputy Director of the CMS Media Relations Group. “Each regional office still has folks who are working on the key issues, just reporting directly to the Consortium Administrators.”

Although the original Federal Register notice stated that the Regional Offices were being abolished, CMS officials are not admitting that there was a mistake. They just have clarified the language used to make clear what really was happening.