October 04,2004

Baucus Concerned about Progress on Transfer of Medicare Appeals Function

Senator Looking Forward to Continued Oversight

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report todayevaluating the progress of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department ofHealth and Human Services (HHS) in implementing the transfer of the Medicare appealsfunction from SSA to HHS. Section 931 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, andModernization Act of 2003 (MMA) requires the agencies to implement the transfer between July1, 2005 and October 1, 2005. The MMA also required the agencies to develop a transfer planand submit it to the GAO for review.

The GAO report, entitled “Medicare: Incomplete Plan to Transfer Appeals Workloadfrom SSA to HHS Threatens Service to Appellants”, points out that the agencies failed toprovide sufficiently detailed information to allow the GAO to conduct a meaningful evaluationof the agencies’ efforts to implement the transfer successfully and on time. The GAO also raisedthe lack of contingency planning by the agencies as a potential problem.

In response to the report, Baucus stated, “I am concerned that the agencies have not mademore progress in planning for the transfer. It is important to get this transfer done right and ontime so that Medicare beneficiaries have continuous access to the appeals process.”

Baucus plans to join with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the FinanceCommittee, in requesting that the GAO continue monitoring the agencies as the requiredimplementation date draws closer and assuring continued oversight by the Committee. Baucusadded, “I expect that the agencies will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a successfultransfer. Appeals under the new prescription drug benefit will begin in early 2006, so it isimperative that HHS has an appeals process up and running before then.”