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Bipartisan legislation to provide better care at lower cost for seniors passes committee unanimously

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today applauded unanimous committee passage of bipartisan legislation he introduced to strengthen and improve health outcomes for seniors enrolled in Medicare who are living with multiple chronic conditions.

The Senate Committee on Finance today passed S.870, the Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017, by a vote of 26-0. The legislation now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

“With today’s bipartisan, unanimous committee vote, we are one step closer to helping ensure that seniors with multiple chronic health conditions receive better-coordinated care through Medicare,” said Isakson. “This legislation will empower doctors and patients to work together to improve overall health and help keep patients out of the hospital. I urge the Senate to quickly begin consideration of this important legislation to help improve lives and lower health care costs.”

The CHRONIC Care Act of 2017 was introduced on April 6, 2017, by Isakson, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee’s Chronic Care working group, along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., who co-chairs the working group with Isakson.

“Improving care for seniors with chronic conditions is one of the most important things Congress can do to modernize the Medicare program for the 21st century,” Warner said. “These are bipartisan, data-driven policies that will improve access and care for these high-need patients, and ensure that Medicare can provide high-quality care for seniors today and in the future. I hope the full Senate will quickly act on this bipartisan legislation.”

A full summary of the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017 can be found here, and highlights of the legislation include:

  • Permanently reauthorizing and strengthening Medicare Advantage Special Needs plans to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions or other significant health needs have continued access to quality care that is tailored to their personal needs;
  • Expanding telehealth services offered through different providers of care that will benefit seniors in rural areas and increase access to primary care services and telestroke care; and
  • Extending the proven “independence at home” model that allows seniors to receive care from primary care teams. This provision aims to decrease hospital readmissions and to allow seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive care in their own home.

Background:
Announced at a May 2015 Finance Committee hearing on chronic care, the bipartisan Chronic Care working group was formed to explore cost-effective solutions to improve health outcomes for seniors who are living with one or more chronic conditions. Isakson, a leading voice on issues relating to improved care for those with long-term health conditions, was selected along with Warner to lead the working group.

The working group produced a policy options paper in December 2015 and called for stakeholder input into the groups’ ideas. The working group received 327 submissions from interested stakeholders across the country who provided thoughtful ideas on ways the Medicare program can better deliver health care to beneficiaries with multiple chronic illness. Those submissions were considered by working group members to craft a discussion draft released in October of 2016.

A previous version of this bill was introduced in December 2016. Later that month, two important provisions of the legislation that improve risk adjustment and access to the successful Medicare Advantage program for Medicare-eligible individuals with end-stage renal disease were included in 21st Century Cures bill. The Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017 remains largely unchanged from the version introduced in the 114th Congress, notwithstanding minor technical and date changes.

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