Lawmakers release draft legislation to revamp Medicare for chronic conditions

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Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease could potentially experience improved outcomes and care coordination under a piece of draft legislation unveiled by the Senate Finance Committee last week.

The Chronic Care Act of 2016, created by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), would form or expand on Medicare programs aimed at reducing costs and improving care for those with chronic conditions. Beneficiaries with such conditions currently account for nearly 93% of all Medicare spending, according to a statement from the legislation's authors — members of the Finance Committee's Chronic Care Working Group.

The draft was previewed by the group in a paper last December, which soon after received skepticism from provider groups worried about the “unintended consequences” such new policies could have on the long-term care industry.

The draft legislation includes proposals for an expansion to home care and home dialysis services, and would boost telehealth services for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and accountable care organizations, and eliminate barriers to care coordination in ACOs.

“At a time when chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke dominate Medicare, too many seniors receive fragmented care that too easily allows them to fall through the cracks,” Wyden said.

The draft has not yet received a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The legislation might see a Senate vote during the lame-duck session following the election on Nov. 8, but that would require introducing a final bill, The Hill reported.