Date

Press release

CMS TO EXTEND MEDICARE SATELLITE NETWORK TO IHS AND INDIAN TRIBES

CMS TO EXTEND MEDICARE SATELLITE NETWORK TO IHS AND INDIAN TRIBES
57 FACILITIES IN 24 STATES TO GET SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new, state-of-the-art satellite network to provide Medicare and Medicaid information to 57 Indian Health Service (IHS) and tribal health facilities in 24 states, including Alaska.

"Providing this technology to these hospitals will help to ensure that American Indians and Alaska Natives receive quality health care services and that their doctors and hospitals get paid for providing that care," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "We will continue to look for ways to harness today’s technology to improve health care for all Americans, particularly those who suffer from health disparities or who live in rural areas."

The new network uses the same DirecTV dishes used in homes across the country, but the dishes only receive one channel, the CMS Medicare Learning Network. The 57 IHS and tribal sites complement 83 dishes already in operation at the private insurance companies that CMS contracts with to process and pay Medicare bills and more than 400 private sector sites that volunteer to show Medicare Learning Network broadcasts.

The initial broadcast of the new network will be held January 29th and will feature key policy makers from the Department of Health and Human Services, CMS, Trailblazer Health Enterprises and the IHS. These experts will discuss their partnership for improving tribal health and field questions received over a toll free telephone line. This broadcast will also introduce the Medicare training and customer service available through the Medicare Learning Network and its partner, Trailblazer.

"It’s gratifying to see that we can use new technologies to broadcast information into remote communities rather than forcing providers to take time and resources away from patient care to get training that can now be delivered efficiently by satellite," CMS Administrator Tom Scully said.

"Being able to receive information and clarify Medicare billing processes and requirements locally will reduce our training and travel budgets, especially for our small and isolated facilities; improve the accuracy of our billing process; and expedite the receipt of payments -- which are returned directly to the facility submitting the bill," IHS Interim Director Charles W. Grim said. This way we can extend, and potentially expand upon, the number of services available and possibly increase our staffing levels."

The Learning Network is the authoritative source for educational programming that helps physicians and other health care providers to work through the Medicare payment maze. In addition, the satellite dishes extend the educational reach of Trailblazer Health Enterprises, the private insurance company that CMS uses to provide specialized education, customer service, and claims processing for all of the Tribal and IHS facilities who bill Medicare from Indian Country.

The IHS, an agency within HHS, is the principal federal health care provider for the estimated 1.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to more than 560 federally recognized tribes in 35 states. IHS provides about 11 million inpatient, outpatient, and dental services each year.

Contact: CMS Public Affairs Office, (202) 690-6145

or

Contact: IHS Public Affairs Office, (301) 443-3593