Senate panel unanimously advances chronic care bill

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to advance a bill (S 870) aimed at improving care coordination, management, and outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic medical conditions.

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Bill details

The Senate Finance Committee's Chronic Care Working Group introduced the bill, known as the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act, last month, after a similar measure failed to gain traction in the chamber last year, Healthcare Finance News reports.

The new bill would implement Medicare payment policies intended to encourage beneficiaries, including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, who have chronic conditions or who have had strokes to receive care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) and telehealth services.

For instance, the bill would allow MA plans and ACOs to expand coverage for and provide telehealth services for certain procedures, such as home dialysis and stroke assessments. The measure also would:

  • Extend by two years the demonstration period for CMS' Independence at Home program, which allows medical practices to deliver comprehensive primary care services at beneficiaries' homes; and
  • Permanently extend the MA Special Needs program for beneficiaries who are chronically ill.

Further, the bill would allow Medicare reimbursements for additional non-health and social services, such as meal deliveries and transportation to doctors' appointments.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the bill would generate $80 million in savings, which would help to offset the measure's costs. Overall, CBO said existing Medicare funds would cover the bill's costs, meaning the measure would not increase federal spending.

Stakeholders weigh-in

Stakeholders at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday said the bill would improve health outcomes and reduce spending on Medicare beneficiaries who have chronic diseases, Modern Healthcare reports.

Lee Schwamm, director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Partners Telestroke Network, said the bill's provisions to expand telehealth benefits could result in better health outcomes for beneficiaries who had a stroke. Schwamm said access to telehealth services have led to timelier interventions for stroke patients, resulting in more patients recovering with little-to-no disability.

Katherine Hayes, director of health policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said research shows expanding beneficiaries' access to social support services could reduce medical costs. Hayes cited a pilot study that showed providing support services to people with multiple chronic conditions cut medical costs by as much as 27 percent (AHA News, 5/18; Frieden, MedPage Today, 5/18; Morse, Healthcare Finance News, 5/17; Lee, Modern Healthcare, 5/16; S 870 text, accessed 5/19; Young, CQ News, 5/18 [subscription required]).

As people live longer, meet your new Medicare patient

meet your new medicare patient

From 2011 to 2030, an average of 10,000 baby boomers will age into Medicare each day. With this shift, Medicare patients will comprise more than half of inpatient volumes and be the primary source of volume growth.

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