In the midst of a heated and contentious election season, seniors should be encouraged to know that some lawmakers in Washington are making progress toward increasing the efficiency of Medicare. According to The Hill, last Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators proposed legitimate legislation reforms to Medicare aimed at improving coordination and cost for treatment of various chronic conditions.

The Senate Finance Committee leaders who drafted the proposal included Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). The bill, which is referred to as the Chronic Care Act, would form or expand on Medicare programs aimed at reducing costs and improving care for those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Beneficiaries with such conditions currently account for nearly 93 percent of all Medicare spending, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

“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,” Sen. Hatch said in a statement.

Among the Act’s provisions is language to expand a Medicare pilot program that sends doctors and nurses to care for people at their homes. Also included in the draft bill is new permission for certain kidney disease patients to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans starting in 2021; increased flexibility for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs); and a proposal to expand Medicare payment and use of telehealth services. The reform also would expand programs aimed at combating high drug prices, such as the new test model to improve how Medicare Part B pays for prescription drugs.

Lawmakers have included a section-by-section summary of all the bill’s provisions, which can be reviewed here.

Sen. Wyden was encouraged by the bipartisan proposal and by the prospect of providing seniors with chronic illnesses affordable and high-quality healthcare in the near future “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,” he said. “Releasing draft legislation marks the next significant step in the effort to ensure Medicare meets the needs of seniors with complex, costly chronic illnesses.”

As of now, the bill’s total cost and savings are unknown as it has not been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office. However, the Senate Finance Committee members promise that the bill would give seniors enrolled in Medicare the “opportunity to receive better care at lower cost.”

The Hill speculates that the legislation could see a Senate vote during the lame-duck session following the election, but the Committee would have to turn last week’s draft into a final bill.

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