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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Bill Introduced to Reform Chronic Care in Medicare

January 22, 2014 | Medicare | Comments
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A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last week aims to overhaul the way older Americans receive care under Medicare and rein in the program’s rising costs. The Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014 (S. 1932/H.R. 3890) would give Medicare providers and insurance plans incentives to use team-based care to treat patients with chronic health conditions. It would allow Medicare providers to operate voluntary “Better Care Plans” in return for specially tailored payments that reward good patient outcomes.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-WA) introduced the measure with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Congressmen Peter Welch (D-VT) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN).

Wyden said the bill’s coordinated, chronic care services would make beneficiaries healthier and improve Medicare’s bottom line by minimizing payments for unnecessary or duplicative services. Coordinated care delivery models, such as Accountable Care Organizations, currently exist in several regions throughout the United States. The legislation aims to replicate and improve upon those models by removing federal rules and barriers preventing providers from specializing in chronic care.

Wyden noted that caring for chronically sick patients accounts for 93% of current Medicare spending. Wyden is in line to become the next chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee upon Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-MT) confirmation as Ambassador to China. Medicare would be one of the biggest federal programs the Senator would oversee as Finance Committee Chair. But he acknowledged that the Better Care, Lower Cost Act faces tough odds in a bitterly partisan Congress. Instead, Wyden said it could serve as the basis for a bipartisan effort to overhaul Medicare.