New bipartisan bill would expand home care for Medicare seniors

A new bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate yesterday will allow the expansion of a home care program for Medicare seniors.

The bill was filed by four senators--Edward Markey (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio)--and would make the home-based primary care Medicare program a permanent national Medicare program, according to the senators’ announcement.

The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) is among the groups supporting the bill and urged legislators to take action on the Independence at Home Act of 2016, which it says will open the door to higher quality, lower cost care for seniors by expanding on a successful demonstration project. The program brings primary care medical services to Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions in their homes and saved $25 million in its first year.

“It’s time to turn the successful experiment that is Independence at Home into a nationwide practice,” Markey said in the announcement.

Since 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Independence at Home Practice Demonstration has given 90,000 Medicare beneficiaries access to a team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers who provide high-quality primary care in the beneficiaries’ own home. The program has saved an average of $3,070 per year per beneficiary while improving care quality. However, a provision in current law prevents expansion of the program without Congressional action.

Passage of the bill would ensure that beneficiaries across the country can access the Independence at Home program, NCHC said. “This bipartisan legislation opens the door to home-based primary care for nearly two million of Medicare’s frailest beneficiaries--an approach that is proven to save money for taxpayers even as it improves care quality,” said John Rother, NCHC president and CEO, in a statement yesterday. “The Independence at Home Act ought to be near the top of Congress’ to-do list.”

The team-based model, which includes doctors, caregivers, and other healthcare professionals, brings care to patients with multiple diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, congestive heart failure, diabetes and Parkinson’s. The program has reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Nine physician practices around the country earned bonuses of nearly $12 million for participating in the pilot program.

- read the senators’ announcement
- check out the bill
- learn more about the Independence at Home program
- find the NCHC statement