Patient survey results help you choose a home health agency

By Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator

The day is finally here – weeks after a fall that resulted in a broken hip, you’re ready to go home. You know you’re going to continue to need treatment and services at home, but where do you find a resource to help you through this next step on the road to recovery?

Now there’s an objective and meaningful way to compare other patients’ actual experiences with home health agencies and services—the Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) Survey – and we’ve just released the first set of survey results on our Home Health Compare page.

People with Medicare that are getting home health services fill out this short survey that asks about the care they got from the home health agency in the last 2 months, how they’d rate the care, and how strongly they’d recommend that agency.

The initial survey results cover the period from October 2010 to September 2011. Most people who got home health care from Medicare-certified home health agencies during that time said they got the care they needed. In fact:

  • 84% of patients gave their home health agency a rating of 9 or 10 on a scale from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
  • 80% of patients said “yes, they would definitely recommend the home health agency to friends.”
  • 87% of patients said their home health team provided care in a professional way.
  • 86% said their home health team communicated well with them.
  • 83% said their home health team discussed medicines, pain, and home safety.

By making the results public, we help keep home health agencies openly accountable and continuously working to improve their quality of care.

Let Medicare make it easier for you on your road to recovery.  We can help you make an informed decision when choosing a home health agency that best meets your needs—visit our Home Health Compare for the latest patient survey results.

Let’s be clear: plain writing works

Speaking and writing about the Medicare program in plain language isn’t just good practice—it’s the law. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires us to make sure you’ll find our Web pages, booklets, letters and other materials clear and to the point.

You don’t have to look far to find examples of plain writing in our publications and on our Web site. Last July we released A Quick Look at Medicare, an easy-to-read 4-page brochure that sums up what Medicare does, what your choices are, and how you can contact us.

Also, we’ve recently redesigned the Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) to make it easier for you to find and understand your Medicare claims information.

The Affordable Care Act has also given us new opportunities to reach wider audiences with plain writing. For example, we wrote a plain language overview on the health care law for doctors and other health care providers that was mailed with the February edition of WebMD magazine to more than 175,000 doctor’s offices around the country.

We’ve made a lot of progress with plain writing during the past 15 months, but there’s still work to do. How do you think Medicare is doing using plain writing in our documents and Web pages? We need to know, so we can make our materials better. Give us feedback on our efforts and learn more about our ongoing commitment to plain writing by visiting the CMS Plain Language Web page.

Getting More Accurate Tobacco Information to Consumers

By: Margaret Hamburg, M.D. Crosspost from FDAVoice

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in our country. And this Administration is committed to implementing strategies that will stop our nation’s youth from starting to use tobacco and also help adults to quit. Today we’re taking two critical steps forward that will help reduce harm from tobacco and tobacco products.

Americans will soon have more information on the chemicals found in certain tobacco products, reflecting FDA’s commitment to inform and protect the public. For the first time ever, tobacco companies will be required to report the quantity of harmful and potentially harmful constituents – HPHCs – that are in their products to the FDA.

The detailed information that we receive will help FDA determine how best to make science-based decisions to reduce the terrible toll of tobacco-related disease and death. We also hope that by having to disclose this information, industry will voluntarily start to make their products substantially less addictive and harmful.

We are also forging new territory as we seek to ensure that tobacco companies provide accurate information and will not be able to mislead American consumers, especially by making it sound like certain products are less risky than they are. The landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed by President Obama gives FDA the authority to ensure the claims for tobacco products marketed to reduce risk or exposure, such as “low tar” or “light,” are truthful and demonstrated by sound science.

So today we issued a draft guidance that provides direction for tobacco companies when they submit applications for modified risk tobacco products – MRTPs – tobacco products that are sold, distributed, or marketed to the public for use to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease.

We want to make sure consumers and the public have an accurate understanding of the health risks of tobacco products—so mistaken beliefs don’t cause them to start or continue using products that lead to preventable disease and death.

We are doing everything that we can to protect all Americans – especially our youth – from the dangers of tobacco, and we’re hopeful these two additional steps will accelerate our goal to make tobacco-related disease and death part of America’s past – not its future.

Margaret Hamburg, M.D., is Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Cutting the clutter – the newly designed Medicare Summary Notice

It’s a whole lot easier to read and understand your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN), thanks to a recently completed redesign. You’ll see a brand new format when you check your MSN at gives you faster access to your Medicare claims information—you can check it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Customize your MSN to see procedures broken down by single claim, or by a time period you choose, and print out your own statement anytime. Reviewing your MSN online means a shorter wait to see what you were charged for health care services, medical supplies or equipment, and how much Medicare paid.

We want the MSN to be something that makes it easier for you to find and understand your Medicare claims information.  We spent more than a year improving it. We did one-one-one interviews and focus groups with people like you, and used their feedback to improve the design and language.

As a recent joint Kaiser Health News / Washington Post article pointed out, we’ve also redesigned the MSN to make it easier for you to help us prevent fraud and find billing errors. Did you know you could get a reward of up to $1,000 for a tip that leads to uncovering fraud? Remember, you’re our best defense against fraud, so check your MSN for services or items you didn’t get.

Here are some of the improvements you’ll see in your new MSN:

  •          Larger text size and wider spacing to make reading easier
  •          Plain, concise language you can understand quickly
  •          A “snapshot” of
    •    how much of your Part A or Part B deductible you’ve paid so far this year
    •    the providers you saw during the reporting period
    •    whether Medicare approved all your claims
  •          Brief descriptions of your medical procedures
  •          Easy-to-understand definitions for terms you might not know
  •          A checklist to help you make sure you’re getting the most from your Medicare
  •          Information on how to report fraud, preventive medical services, and important Medicare reminders
  •          Easy instructions for how to file an appeal

You’ll start seeing these changes in early 2013 in the mailed copy of your MSN, but why wait? Visit and start using the newly redesigned MSN online today.