New legislation would provide Medicare coverage for chronic care
Medicare is a wonderful program, but it has some gaps, Green said. What were doing with this bill is bridging the gap between what Medicare was intended to do for seniors and what it has done in the real world.
The Geriatric Assessment and Chronic Care Coordination Act of 2007, co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), would authorize Medicare coverage of two services that many seniors currently lack. The first is a geriatric assessment, which is a comprehensive evaluation of an individuals condition and a plan to keep the person healthy.
The second service the bill authorizes is coordination of medical care for individuals who have multiple chronic conditions, including dementia. Dr. Todd Semla, president of the American Geriatrics Society, said people with serious health problems often see several doctors who dont necessarily work together and may occasionally prescribe incompatible or redundant treatments.
About 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic conditions, and these individuals account for almost 70 percent of all Medicare spending, Semla said. We have to find better ways, like chronic care coordination, to treat this population.
Greens bill, companion to identical legislation introduced by Sen. Blance Lincoln (D-Ark.), is an effort to integrate the delivery of health services within Medicare. Under the chronic care coordination provision of the bill, an individual could choose a health care professional to be a care manager. The care manager would be responsible for understanding virtually every aspect of the individuals health needs and make sure the individual had enough information to make informed health care decisions.
These services are often overlooked by doctors who are not paid to provide them, although a few programs and providers do provide similar services. The benefit covers only individuals who are not receiving comparable services through another Medicare-eligible program or provider.
Green said he is especially concerned about geriatric health because the number of seniors in the United States is dramatically increasing as the baby boomer generation ages.
If we dont pay for health care coordination through Medicare, seniors will still get treatment but it wont be as good as it should, he said, adding that the bill would more than pay for itself because health care coordination reduces hospital visits and duplicative procedures and so increases savings to Medicare.
Semla said the bill was an important step toward the goal of integrating care coordination with Medicare and also stressed the potential health care savings.
This legislation will properly align the financial incentives within the Medicare system to encourage the coordination of care in older patients, he said. It will bring down the costs of providing care to this rising population, while increasing the quality of health care provided.
Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committees Health Subcommittee, Green has consistently fought to boost the Medicare system, which millions of Americas seniors rely on for their health care. The Geriatric Assessment and Chronic Care Coordination Act has been endorsed by the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Practitioners, the Alzheimers Association, the American Geriatric Society and the National Association of Social Workers.