Medicare agency vows to launch home care demo 'as quickly as possible'

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday the agency will move "as quickly as possible" to launch a popular program designed to treat the nation's frailest seniors in their homes. 

CMS is required to install the demonstration program, which was included in the Democrats' health reform law, before 2012. But the law also empowers Medicare to expedite that timeline, which is precisely what Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) urged CMS to do Tuesday. 

The lawmakers argue that encouraging providers to treat the sickest seniors in their homes — as the Veterans Affairs (VA) Department has done for decades — not only improves the quality of care, but slashes healthcare costs as well.

A CMS spokesperson said officials "have begun developing an implementation plan and timeline for the demonstration." 

"We are also reviewing with interest the data provided by the VA regarding a similar demonstration for any lessons learned that would improve the design and implementation of the Medicare demonstration," the spokesperson said in an e-mail. 

The agency has received the Wyden/Markey request, the spokesperson added, "and look forward to providing a written response in the near future."