HLC President: Medicare Reform Legislation Delivers Multiple Gains for Beneficiaries, Healthcare System

WASHINGTON – The Medicare physician payment reform legislation that passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday night and is on its way to President Obama will have far-reaching positive effects for beneficiaries and for the U.S. healthcare system, the president of the Healthcare Leadership Council said today.

“The immediate benefits of this measure are well-known. Physicians will no longer have to wait anxiously each year to see if there will be deep cuts to their Medicare payments. Millions of families with children are assured that their health coverage will continue under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),” said HLC President Mary R. Grealy. “But this legislation can also serve as a catalyst for significant improvements in healthcare delivery and health system efficacy.”

Ms. Grealy applauded bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress for developing a bill that, among other provisions:

• Encourages comprehensive, coordinated care management for the millions of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. “Chronic disease is the most powerful cost driver in Medicare. Coordinated care management can not only make life better for patients, but also improve cost-efficiency,” she said.

• Expands the availability of Medicare data for care delivery and health system improvements. “Medicare controls a wealth of information from billions of patient interactions. This data can be a critical key to a transformed 21st century healthcare system,” she said.

• Promotes interoperability of electronic record systems, an important step toward the development of a national health information network.

• Extends authority for specialized Medicare Advantage plans for patients with special needs.

• Extends funding for community health centers.

“Perhaps most importantly, this legislation places Medicare on a path toward being a program that focuses on care value, rather than volume of services,” Ms. Grealy said. “The work to improve Medicare is far from done. Congress still needs to address the structural challenges posed by the extraordinary growth of the beneficiary population as a result of baby boomer retirement. This legislation, though, is a bipartisan victory in making Medicare a program better equipped to meet patient needs today and tomorrow.”