Lawmakers Contemplate Bipartisan Medicare Reform With Draft Bill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers late last month released a draft bill that aims to expand and create various Medicare programs for chronic conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, to reduce costs and improve care for the government and beneficiaries.

The bill, called the Chronic Care Act, was put together by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

More details from The Hill:

Programs in the draft bill include expanding a Medicare pilot program that sends doctors and nurses to care for people at their homes, increase flexibility for groups of doctors who are paid based on coordinated care for patients called “Accountable Care Organizations,” and increasing the use of telehealth, where technology allows doctors to consult with patients far away.

Measures like these aimed at making Medicare payments smarter have largely stayed out of the spotlight and partisan battles, despite the fact that some of the Medicare programs being expanded in the draft bill were set in motion by ObamaCare.

The draft bill would also expand a program from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which was created by ObamaCare and has drawn Republican criticism for other initiatives, such as one aimed at fighting high drug prices.

The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet estimated how much the bill would cost.

The Senate won’t vote on this draft bill. But if a final bill is released during the coming months, a vote might be possible during the lame duck session in November or December.

Long-term care industry groups expressed skepticism about the bill earlier this year. From a McKnight’s report from February:

The American Health Care Association urged the group to bear in mind the “unintended consequences” the policies could have on existing payment systems and access to care. AHCA also expressed concerns that proposed policies that link payment to community-level quality measures may take control from providers and put them at odds with residents’ personal health wishes.

AHCA also recommended the working group distinguish between the “very different” populations of beneficiaries with several chronic conditions and those with one or two.

AHA urged the group to waive barriers to care coordination as it moves forward, including the “three-day rule” for skilled nursing facilities.

“Allowing healthcare providers maximum flexibility to identify and place beneficiaries in the clinical setting that best serves their short- and long-term recovery goals is essential to ensuring that care is provided in the right place at the right time — an important goal for all beneficiaries, but perhaps even more so for those who are chronically ill,” the group’s comments read.

Read the draft bill here.

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