Reforms proposed for chronically ill in Medicare

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing a series of reforms to improve how Medicare treats its sickest and most expensive patients.

New legislation from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would attempt to improve care for chronically ill seniors by revamping how their providers are paid.

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Under the bill, voluntary "Better Care" plans and practices would specialize in treating patients with multiple chronic conditions. In return, they would receive specially tailored payments that reward good outcomes.

Isakson predicted that the bill would "unleash the creativity of the medical community" toward better assisting older patients with difficult conditions.

The bill "addresses our healthcare system's challenge of managing chronic medical condition by allowing patients to voluntarily enroll in a program that incentivizes healthcare providers to invest in prevention," he said in a statement.

If it passed, the legislation would be part of a wider movement to reform how healthcare is delivered and paid for in the United States.

Congress has taken small steps toward rewarding quality, but federal health programs still reimburse on a mostly fee-for-service basis.

AARP backed the legislation in a statement, noting that 75 percent of healthcare dollars are spent on chronic disease.

"It is important to better coordinate and improve the quality of care for these individuals … rather than to just ask individuals to continue to pay more for their healthcare," said AARP Legislative Policy Director David Certner in a statement.