News Briefs

Medicare tests program for smoking cessation

Medicare beneficiaries living in seven states chosen to pilot a Medicare stop-smoking program will have access to smoking-cessation strategies not normally covered by Medicare.

Beneficiaries who are older than 65 and living in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming will receive free therapy that may include counseling in person or over the telephone, nicotine patches, a prescription smoking-cessation drug, and educational materials.

Strategies that will work for older smokers

Those strategies will be tested in various combinations to determine which strategies are most effective for older smokers. Once enrolled, beneficiaries will be assigned to one of the study options and will have access to the services for one year. Results of the study will be available in 2005.

To enroll, Medicare beneficiaries who are older than 65, living in one of the seven pilot program states, and enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare Part B, can call (866) 652-3446 for more information about the study and to find out if they are eligible to participate.

CMS proposes tracking hospital referrals to HHAs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued a proposed rule to collect information on hospital referrals to home health agencies and other entities with which the hospital has a financial interest.

Once collected, the information will be made available to the public.

The purpose of the rule is to ensure that patients have an opportunity to make an informed choice of home health agency to which they are referred.

Hospitals are required to show a list of Medicare-certified agencies that serve the patient’s geographic area.

Hospitals must indicate the agencies with which there is a financial interest and hospital personnel are not permitted to specify a agency that must provide services.

One result of the proposed rule might be a change in hospital-referral patterns, affecting some home health agencies’ new admissions.

To read the full text of the proposed rule, "Nondiscrimination in Post-hospital Referral to Home Health Agencies and Other Entities," go to: List title in search terms and enter 11/22/ 2002 as the date.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until 5 p.m., Jan. 21, 2003.

Mail written comments (one original and two copies) to: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1224-P, P.O. Box 8014, Baltimore, MD 21244-8014. Refer to file code CMS-1224-P within your comments.