Senate Panel Advances Bill to Improve Medicare for Patients With Chronic Illnesses

On May 18, a Senate panel approved a bipartisan bill that could drastically improve Medicare for patients with chronic illness by reducing costs associated with these conditions and improving access to health-care resources.

The bill addresses three main areas of cost-savings: providing better telehealth services, encouraging multidisciplinary efforts among providers, and improving value-based payment models.

To provide Medicare beneficiaries with more cost-efficient treatment options, the legislation would grant Medicare Advantage plans more flexibility in offering special benefits (such as in-home meal delivery and home modifications) to patients with chronic illnesses, as long as the services are intended to improve patients’ health outcomes. The bill also expands a pilot program introduced under the Affordable Care Act, in which providers can offer primary care services at home to people with multiple chronic illnesses.

The focus of the bill is broadening Medicare’s reimbursement of telemedicine. Under the current program, telehealth services are only reimbursed for doctors in rural areas; the new bill would allow patients in all regions to have immediate access to these services.

Federal rules for accountable care organizations would also be revamped to create a voluntary pathway for consumers to join, rather than automatic enrollment.

Parts of the policy were already passed into law through federal regulations and the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill waits to be discussed on the Senate floor.

Source: Morning Consult, May 18, 2017.