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U.S. Senate Approves Bipartisan Plan to Improve Care for Seniors with Chronic Conditions

September 27, 2017

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved S. 870, bipartisan legislation that will improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions and also will lower costs.

Sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017, aligns with hospital community priorities to help seniors better manage chronic conditions and prevent hospitalization.

 An increasing number of adults who will age into the Medicare program during the next 20 years live with multiple chronic conditions. These patients account for a large percentage of overall Medicare spending.

During June of 2010, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) issued a report that highlighted challenges for Pennsylvania in addressing chronic health conditions. The report, which focused on four chronic conditions—diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure––estimated that the annual economic impact of chronic disease on the commonwealth due to productivity loss and treatments would reach $170.2 billion by 2023.

The goals of the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017 include improving disease management, lowering Medicare costs, and streamlining care coordination services without adding to the deficit.

Telehealth is one of four key components of the legislation. The CHRONIC Care Act of 2017:

  • Gives certain Accountable Care Organizations flexibility to provide telehealth services
  • Allows beneficiaries receiving dialysis treatments at home to do their physician check-in via telehealth
  • Expands the availability of telehealth to ensure that individuals who may be having a stroke receive the right diagnosis and treatment
  • Allows a Medicare Advantage plan to include additional telehealth services in its bid

In addition, the legislation:

The legislative provisions will compliment a number of successful Pennsylvania hospital programs that address readmissions, promote care transitions, and integrate super-utilizer initiatives which provide health care management for disproportionately heavy, repeat users of expensive health care services.

During May 2015, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee formed the bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group to develop policy ideas to address Medicare spending on treating multiple chronic illnesses. This group released a draft outline of bipartisan proposals. The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania submitted a comment letter supporting the effort and highlighted key priorities, including:

  • Leveraging technology and data sharing to most effectively care for patients
  • Supporting collaboration between health insurers, providers, and community groups
  • Deploying a case management approach that ensures proper transitions of care, addresses socioeconomic barriers impacting health outcomes, and promotes patient empowerment 
  • Establishing appropriate payment mechanisms that reflect the intensity and scope of services provided 

The first Chronic Care Act was introduced during December 2016, and the group reintroduced this legislation as S. 870 during April 2017. Bill sponsors are urging swift action in the House to fast-track the bill for the President’s signature. 

For additional information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal legislative advocacy.

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