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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Associate Director Stephen C. Benowitz recently addressed the World Congress Leadership Summit on Medicare to Transform Public and Private Alliances. Benowitz focused on the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, and initiatives implemented by President George W. Bush to improve the health and welfare of federal employees.
"The American civil service of the 21 century has to be flexible, responsive and healthy," Benowitz said. "At OPM, our job is to help build a high-quality and diverse work force which America needs to guarantee freedom, promote prosperity, and ensure the security of our great nation. We ensure federal workers stay healthy with the FEHB - the best health program in the world."
The summit featured national decision-makers responsible for improving the delivery of care for Medicare beneficiaries. The conference addressed strategic challenges and opportunities to foster strong public/private partnerships, and presented lessons learned from the Medicare Modernization Act.
"President Bush's vision for the future of health care in America calls for competition and consumer choice," stated Benowitz. "As the President has said, ‘Health Savings Accounts address a growing need in our health care system. These accounts will help working Americans afford health insurance that is growing out of their reach. They will help restrain the health care costs that are affecting us all.'"
The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 substantially changed the Medicare program to make it look more like the FEHB model. Beginning in 2006, Medicare enrollees will have new choices similar to the FEHB, including health savings accounts (HSA).
HSAs are trust accounts employees own for the purpose of paying qualified medical expenses for themselves, their spouses and dependents.
"Federal employees are learning more about what benefits are available to them, how much they cost, and how they can control those dollars by the life-style decisions they make," Benowitz stated. "Our goal is to encourage civil servants to be more proactive about their health."
Health Information Technology, another initiative by President Bush, was launched in 2004. This initiative demonstrates the importance the President places on the development and implementation of a nationwide interoperable health information technology infrastructure to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. The President's vision is to ensure most Americans have electronic health records within the next ten years.
"Better information technology is essential to a health care system which puts the needs of the patient first," stated Benowitz. "It gives patients all the information they need to make informed medical and economic decisions in consultation with their health care providers."
The use of electronic prescribing has the potential to reduce prescription errors, secure medication safety, and save health care dollars, while ensuring patient privacy rights are protected. The use of electronic medical records presents opportunities to reduce errors and improve the quality of care as well as reduce paperwork and misdiagnosis.
Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.