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Better Benefit Communication

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced several actions Monday to improve “customer service” from the federal government, including initiatives affecting the provision of telehealth, maternity care for Medicaid beneficiaries, and healthcare services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Whether searching for vaccine safety information, claiming retirement benefits, receiving health insurance, passing through a security checkpoint, or checking the status of a farm loan application, Americans expect government services to be responsive to their needs,” the White House said in a fact sheet announcing the administration actions. “But too often, people have to navigate a tangled web of government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services they depend on.”

The actions announced Monday — which were released along with an executive order signed by President Biden — included the following initiatives related to healthcare:

  • Service members and veterans will be able to use accounts to access and its information about the healthcare and benefits they’ve earned, and outdated and duplicate sign-in options will be removed across VA websites and mobile apps.
  • Veterans, beneficiaries, and their caregivers will be able to access digital services through a single, integrated digital platform on and a flagship VA mobile application so that VA’s customers don’t have to use separate portals, websites, or mobile applications when managing their healthcare and benefits online.
  • Pregnant women covered by Medicaid will have access to safer and more equitable care because of strengthened requirements for maternal health quality measurement, including perinatal quality and patient care experience. Measures will be evaluated by race and ethnicity to better identify and address inequities in maternal health care delivery and outcomes.
  • 7 million women and their children, including those eligible for benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, will be able to grocery shop online, providing an alternative way to access healthy foods.
  • Medicare recipients will receive personalized online tools so they can save money on drugs, manage their healthcare, and access expanded customer support options, including an in-network pharmacy finder tool.
  • More patients will be able to get more automated access to their electronic prenatal, birth, and postpartum health records (including lab results, genetic tests, ultrasound images, and clinical notes) to improve their experience and support better care coordination.
  • Patients will have increased ability to use telehealth with their doctors, connecting rural Americans, individuals with disabilities, or individuals seeking the convenience of remote options with the health care they need.

“Today I’m signing an executive order to ensure that the federal government puts you, the American people, at the front of the line,” the president said Monday during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office. “Millions of people retire each year, and you should be able to apply for Social Security benefits without needing to go to a Social Security office, and have Medicare proactively reach out to you with the tools you need to manage your health to save money … The bottom line is, we’re going to make the government work more effectively for American citizens, so it’s not as confusing, and it’s straightforward.”

Regarding the telehealth benefit, “through the pandemic, there was additional access to a whole range of services — such as interacting with your doctor, and physicals — a whole range of services that were done via telehealth, and the first step of this is to ensure that we continue these practices,” said Neera Tanden, JD, senior advisor to the president, on a phone call with reporters.

“We know that telehealth has been an issue that has been a focus of a lot of rural communities with the decline of rural hospitals, so expanding telehealth and ensuring that it’s a benefit that people can use on an ongoing basis as a critical component of this,” she said.

“This is also a tool that can be used for folks continuing their disability claims,” said Jason Miller, MBA, MPA, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, on the call. “And it’s been something that’s been very successful.”

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