Medicare Chronic Care Management: What’s in the New Bill?

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has brought forth a bill with sweeping Medicare changes in regard to how the chronically ill are treated. Wyden, who is next to head the Senate Finance Committee, hopes to improve the healthcare system and spur change in the tax code. These goals would hope to reign in spending on the program.

The changes would encourage doctors to provide specialized, individual care for chronically ill patients. Specifically, instead of Medicare paying for services separately, caregivers would be given one lump payment to provide care for those with two or more illnesses.

Hopefully, this continued and individualized care would help patients regain better health, driving down the need for separate services and avoiding charging Medicare for duplicate or unnecessary services. There are already some areas across the country where coordinated care is being given to those who are chronically ill. This model, should it be widespread to all facilities, will help lower the cost of Medicare.

The cost of chronic care
Currently, the cost of caring for the chronically ill is 93 percent of Medicare expenses, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The proposed bill puts chronic care at the forefront of the program and prioritizes lowering the cost by changing the way care is given.

“The reason for our legislation is there shouldn’t be as many barriers when seniors and providers arrive at the gates of Medicare,” Wyden told Gannett. “This is really, in our view, what we need to change the debate here in Washington, D.C., about Medicare.”

The plan is in contrast to others that have been proposed that have called for spending cuts in order to reduce Medicare expenses. Instead, individual care and attention for chronic diseases would reduce the cost of certain services and make beneficiaries healthier, similarly driving down costs.

Other proposed plans have caused many Medicare beneficiaries to wonder if their benefits will be cut or lost as a result of reducing expenses. New healthcare law changes have helped somewhat, but Wyden’s proposition would change not only how much Medicare spends, but how patients are treated. As a change that won’t limit care for patients with chronic diseases and a focus on health, many are touting Wyden’s bill as the best to come along in a while. However, Wyden will face partisan lines when bringing forth the proposition, and it could be some time before the action is approved.