Bills Introduced on Capitol Hill

On January 15, 2014, The “Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014” was introduced to remove the barriers that prevent Medicare providers from building on existing successful delivery models and provides a framework to encourage innovative chronic care delivery across the country. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representatives Erik Paulsen (R-MN and Peter Welch (D-VT).

There are existing models of care that meet the needs of chronically ill patients at lower costs, but the vast majority of these innovative care delivery models are located in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and Northeast, leaving millions of Medicare enrollees across the country with little access to proven integrated models of care.

The new bill would support providers and plans wanting to actively engage and care for the Medicare population. The bill encourages specialized team-based care with rewards for improving patient’s outcomes, uses telemedicine and knowledge networks to increase access in rural areas, includes vital case management services proven to increase medical compliance, and enables patients to be identified that need medical care the most.

Katherine Hayes, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Policy Director in response to the bill, said “As this effort moves forward, we would encourage the bill sponsors to further explore how the Better Care program will interact with other models and programs currently being tested in Medicare so as to avoid duplication and allow flexibility for successful models to spread nationwide.”

She added, “We look forward to learning more about the cost savings estimates and hope that this model will help to bend the healthcare cost curve while providing quality coordinated care for patients.”

On the House side Representative Adam Kinzinger from Illinois introduced the Veteran-Centered Access to Coordinated Health Care Act of 2014 (HR 3858) to allow veterans to receive healthcare from a local non-VA health center if they choose, instead of having to drive long distances to the closest VA facility.

The bill also mandates improved coordination by the VA when delivering care especially if the care involves follow-up visits, prescription fillings, and specialized care. The bill makes specific recommendations on how to streamline the coordination of care.

The Act would reauthorize a former pilot program at the VA that was put in place to connect veterans to health facilities closer to their home. The program called “Access Received Closer to Home” or referred to as Project ARCH would be extended to the entire country through the legislation.

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