Gary Tetz

If you’ve ever secretly longed for a way to combine the impenetrability of American healthcare policy with the ease of 21st century communication technology, you’ll be relieved and delighted to learn CMS now has a podcast.

I know! Pinch me.

It’s called “CMS: Beyond the Policy,” with a stated mission to be “a modern, user-friendly way“ to journey far past the incomprehensible nuances of regulatory programs to showcase the incomprehensible thinking that created and sustains them.

Quick remedial aside: A “podcast” is an audio file you can listen to on your phone, tablet, computer or soon, toaster, whenever you want to. The word itself appears to be a prescient combination of “iPod,” Apple’s revolutionary digital media player, and “cast,” which means to throw away.

CMS should be saluted for taking this step, something long craved by those of us wishing we could enjoy sentences like, “The federal participation requirements for SNFs, NFs, or dually certified facilities, are codified in the implementing regulations at 42 CFR part 483, subpart B,” spoken aloud.

Never one to recommend a product or service without thorough evaluation, I took the time just now to check out the CMS podcast for myself on iTunes. First impressions were positive. The graphic is eye-catching and accurate, with the Capitol rotunda pictured through a jaundiced, unhealthy haze.

I should also note that after one episode, “Beyond the Policy” is rated only 4.5 out of 5 stars. I sincerely hope the iTunes rating system is timely and fair, and that this CMS podcast initiative won’t be judged on the basis of old or inaccurate data that doesn’t show the whole picture.

The first episode is called “Evaluation and Management Coding — An overview of recent changes to Evaluation and Management Coding as finalized in the 2019 Physician Fee Schedule” — which is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

I listened to a minute or so, and am pleased to report it produced a sensation I imagine similar to being hit with an elephant-strength tranquilizer dart at 100 paces. Depending on the time of day, that could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Obviously, with so many great podcast choices available, you’ll need motivation to prioritize this one, and thankfully, there are reasons aplenty.

“Beyond the Policy” is not about murder, which currently seems to dominate the podcast world and watercooler talk, so that’s a huge positive. It’s also not about politics, so that’s a huge relief.

Best of all, it’s harmless and non-addictive, which is refreshingly unusual for a product with such powerful sedating properties. You should feel absolutely safe to listen to each episode as often as you like without fear of dependency or dangerous interactions with other podcasts you’re consuming.

All good-natured jesting aside, I actually think this is positive step by CMS to humanize the massive enterprise and share expert perspectives on complex and hopefully even controversial topics. And since, according to CMS administrator Seema Verma, the idea itself came from stakeholders’ suggestions, I have two of my own to respectfully add to the mix.

First, a real podcast has to have sound effects, so please add a harp or chime whenever something important is said. Also, you definitely need to layer in some creepy music throughout to give it that murder-y vibe everyone loves so much.

Second, any new rule or guidance, and certainly any announcement likely to be poorly received by the long-term care profession, should be read aloud by legendary San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy. He has his own ultra-popular podcast now, and will welcome the opportunity to find a new audience.

Thanks for listening, CMS! You stay classy!

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.