Hatch, Wyden, Isakson, Warner Release Proposals to Improve Treatment for Chronic Illness

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., along with Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Mark Warner, D-Va., co-chairs of the Finance Committee Chronic Care Working Group, released a discussion draft with bipartisan proposals to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions.

In addition to the release of the discussion draft, the working group members sent a letter to administration health officials highlighting a number of chronic care provisions the working group identified that were later adopted through regulatory action over the lifetime of the working group. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services(CMS), treatment for patients with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s currently accounts for almost 93 percent of total Medicare spending.

“Addressing chronic care in the Medicare program with reforms that improve outcomes for patients and save taxpayer dollars is a bipartisan goal, and I am proud that after a year and a half’s worth of work, the Finance Committee Chronic Care Working Group was able to unite around a set of reforms and recommendations to advance the conversation,” Hatch said. “Left unresolved, chronic care’s impact on beneficiary health outcomes and Medicare program spending could quickly worsen.  Developing and implementing policies that improve disease management, streamline care coordination, improve quality, and reduce Medicare costs is a challenge.  But with strong bipartisan leadership, we can continue to work together to advance innovative policies that improve care transitions, produce stronger patient outcomes, and increase efficiency without adding to the deficit.  I look forward to continuing that discussion.” 

“At a time when chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke dominate Medicare, too many seniors receive fragmented care that too easily allows them to fall through the cracks,” Wyden said. “Every one of these patients deserves access to coordinated, high-quality health care. Releasing draft legislation marks the next significant step in the effort to ensure Medicare meets the needs of seniors with complex, costly chronic illnesses. I will not rest until that vision is fully achieved.”

“Medicare shouldn’t just be a program that pays the bills when you get sick,” said Isakson. “It should also encourage your doctors to work with you to keep you healthy and out of the hospital by providing high quality, patient-centered care. The reforms in this discussion draft aim to promote better-coordinated care for seniors with multiple chronic health conditions and to empower doctors and patients to work together to improve the health of the whole person. That means seniors enrolled in Medicare will have the opportunity to receive better care at lower cost.”

“Improving quality, coordination and access to care for the millions of seniors with chronic conditions has got to be a  top priority if we’re going to get health reform right,” Warner said.  “Our bipartisan package is an important step in bringing Medicare into the 21st century, so that we can continue to keep our commitments to seniors.”

A section by section breakdown of the discussion draft can be found here

Announced at a May 2015 hearing on chronic care, the Committee formed the bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group to explore cost effective solutions to improve health outcomes for Medicare patients living with one or more chronic conditions. The working group received 530 submissions from interested stakeholders across the country who provided thoughtful ideas on ways the Medicare program can better deliver health care to beneficiaries with multiple chronic illness. The working group produced a policy options paper in December 2015 and called for stakeholder input into the groups’ ideas. Those 327 submissions were considered by the working group members as the discussion draft was crafted.