Bipartisan lawmakers can rebuild trust by passing infusion therapy bill

Bipartisan lawmakers can rebuild trust by passing infusion therapy bill
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When U.S. lawmakers return home in mid-December for the holidays, they will face constituents asking, “What have you achieved in Washington?” Republicans controlling both the Senate and House of Representatives will be especially grilled on healthcare, after failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

However, there is one thing lawmakers can do before the holidays that will improve the lives of some of the sickest patients in America — pass a law helping people in line for heart transplants to endure their wait at home rather than in a hospital.

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Over the holidays, it will be important for lawmakers to be able to point to ways that they have helped real people solve their everyday problems, because voters don’t trust government. In 1958, about three-quarters of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time, but since 2007 that number has not surpassed 30 percent, according to the Pew Research Center’s National Election Study.

 

U.S. senators can start rebuilding that trust by passing the Medicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act of 2017, to restore home infusion therapy payments for patients on Medicare. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed legislation to address this issue. Now, the U.S. Senate must approve its version.

Democrat Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report Top Dems: IG report shows Comey's actions helped Trump win election Dem senator: Trump at G-7 made me ‘embarrassed for our country’ MORE (Va.), who introduced the bill with Republican Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOvernight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority Trump VA pick boosts hopes for reform MORE (Ga.), calls the law a “commonsense fix” for an unintended consequence of another law passed last year.  

Last December, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act (CURES,) winning bipartisan support for its laudable goals of promoting medical research and curing cancer.

The law unfortunately also cut reimbursement by more than 95 percent for many infusion drugs, cutting monthly Medicare payments from about $11,000 per infusion patient to $500. In its place, it created a new benefit to reimburse home-infusion providers, but that provision does not take effect until 2021. That funding gap is hurting patients, but Warner-Isakson would bring the new benefit forward to the start of 2019.

This is not a budgetary issue: The Congressional Budget Office says home infusion is the most cost-effective way to treat patients. Private insurance, Medicaid, Tricare (for veterans) and Medicare Advantage, all still pay for home infusion, but it is not covered by traditional Medicare after the passage of CURES.

Warner-Isakson is truly bipartisan — a rarity in Washington these days. It is co-sponsored by Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMembers of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit Ellison introduces bill to curb stock buybacks Dem Senate super PAC reserves million in fall TV ads MORE (D-Wis.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Finance: Trump wants Russia back in G-7 | Senators, allies push back | House approves first fiscal 2019 spending bills | Dems want insider trading probe over job tweet Dems want insider trading probe after Trump jobs report tweet Clinton on his reading habits: 'I like a fast ride' MORE (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownPence knocks Sherrod Brown in Ohio, boosts Renacci On The Money: Trump imposes B in tariffs on China | China blasts 'fickle' Trump, promises payback | Trump to name consumer bureau director next week Bank regulator faces backlash over comments on racism MORE (D-Ohio), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCommunity development impact remains clear with NMTC post-tax reform Dem sen: ‘Difficult to understand’ Trump’s treatment of allies Dem sen: No military option in North Korea ‘without extreme risks’ MORE (D-Md.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase Dem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews MORE (D-Del.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCongress must confront sexual abuse of military children The Hill's Morning Report — Can the economy help Republicans buck political history in 2018? Sanders gets best reception at early 2020 audition MORE (D-N.Y.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems see midterm advantage in new ObamaCare fight Senate Judiciary urges response to sexual harassment in federal courts MORE (R-Iowa), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingHillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Trump, senators headed for clash on cyber policy For .2 billion, taxpayers should get more than Congress’s trial balloons MORE (I-Maine), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner merger opposed by Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ MORE (D-Minn.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarvard biz school honors Wilbur Ross GOP senators blast White House aide over trade remarks Community development impact remains clear with NMTC post-tax reform MORE (R-Ohio), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump tightens grip on GOP Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority MORE (R-Kan.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenMembers of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit Overnight Defense: Trump hopes to normalize relations with North Korea | Senate defense bill would limit help for Saudis in Yemen | US to honor temporary Taliban ceasefire Senate defense bill includes limits on US support for Saudi campaign in Yemen MORE (D-N.H.), and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGraham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult Lawmakers, media serve up laughs at annual 'Will on the Hill' McConnell will ask Cornyn to stay on GOP leadership team MORE (R-Miss.).

History teaches us that when our leaders work on bipartisan issues that we can all agree on, trust in government rises. For example, trust rose sharply after Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1982 began collaborating with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, doing deals to increase tax revenues and reform Social Security.

Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Trump’s media game puts press on back foot Meghan McCain shreds Giuliani for calling Biden a 'mentally deficient idiot' Mueller warns of Russian midterm attack, while Trump attacks Mueller MORE (R-Ariz.)said in July that as a result of Washington’s hyper-partisanship, “We’re getting nothing done.” The senator urged Republicans and Democrats, “Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.” Voting for Warner-Isakson is one small way that lawmakers can display bipartisanship and get something meaningful done together.

While this legislation is small in the general scheme of things, it’s a big deal to the patients that it impacts. About 4,000 patients in the United States are waiting for a heart transplant at any time, a wait that can last up to one year or more. They would typically receive their drugs via home infusion therapy, but now many Medicare patients have to endure their wait from a hospital, which costs significantly more and leaves them with a diminished quality of life.

Making matters worse, some of these patients are considered too sick and prone to infection to endure a long wait in a hospital, so they are undergoing invasive surgery to implant a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD — implantation of a mechanical pump inside the patient’s chest to help their weakened heart to pump blood. That expensive surgery could be avoided for many patients if they could receive home infusion while waiting for their transplant.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says it can implement the home infusion benefit in 2019, but only if the Senate acts. No one wants to force hundreds of vulnerable patients to live in hospital beds rather than enjoying life in their own homes with their loved ones. And yet, there is a risk that amid all the rancor and distractions in Washington that this sensible law could fall through the cracks. Senators who want to share some good news with constituents over the holidays won’t let that happen.

R. Carter Pate is chairman of the board of Bioscrip and the former U.S. Managing Partner of Health Care at PwC.