Lawmakers push for Medicare overhaul, focus on coordinated care

Disorganization within the healthcare system and a rise in chronic illnesses has prompted members of Congress to propose a new approach to Medicare aimed at keeping patients healthier and avoiding hospitalizations, according to the Billings Gazette.

The Better Care Program would create teams of doctors, nurses and social workers working for a flat fee per Medicare patient. The program would aim to improve care coordination, which would benefit the patient while moving the system away from the fee-for-service model, according to the article.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are leading the charge for "chronic disease reform." Wyden hopes to tackle spending for chronic care patients, which makes up 90 percent of Medicare's budget, through legislation that would reward high-quality care, the Gazette said. Wyden is expected to take over the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare.

The proposed legislation would build off the accountable care organization framework, with "better care" organizations receiving a flat fee per patient and more wiggle room on how the money was spent than currently allowed under Medicare rules. They'd also be able to specialize in dealing with particular conditions, according to the article. Under the program, the Gazette states, seniors who signs up with one of the groups would get an individual care plan that would reflect their particular situation.

A 2013 report from the Bipartisan Policy Center Health Care Cost Containment Initiative said improving Medicare, reforming tax policies, prioritizing healthcare quality and incentivizing states could save roughly $560 billion over the next decade, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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