by NCHC President and CEO John Rother
“NCHC is proud to have championed several health care provisions included in the recently announced Senate budget agreement. More than just another funding extension, this bill takes important steps to improve Medicare and renew investment in primary care – steps that are essential to more affordable health care.”
NCHC priorities reportedly included in the Senate deal:
- The CHRONIC Care Act: This bill represents important progress in our nation’s fight against chronic disease. NCHC has advocated for strong chronic care legislation since before the launch of the Senate’s Chronic Care Working Group. We are pleased that the agreement includes:
- Important new flexibilities for Medicare Advantage plans to deploy high-tech telehealth and high-touch supplemental benefits that chronically ill beneficiaries need;
- Expansion of telehealth for stroke and renal disease patients across Medicare;
- A provision allowing Medicare ACO providers to lower cost-sharing for beneficiaries; and
- Permanent reauthorization of Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plans.
- A permanent fix for Medicare therapy caps – an arbitrary per patient limit on Medicare expenditure for outpatient occupational, physical, and speech therapies that has long plagued both beneficiaries and providers
- Extensions of funding for proven primary care initiatives, including:
- Community Health Centers, which deliver cost-saving primary care to 27 million Americans
- National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and loan forgiveness for clinicians who practice in underserved communities
- Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program, which trains a new generation of primary care physicians in the nation’s community health centers
- Independence at Home Demonstration, which deploys teams of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and others to deliver care to the sickest Medicare beneficiaries in their own homes
- An additional extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, funding these state programs throughout the next decade
“Enactment of these NCHC-supported reforms would be a productive step forward.
“Serious work remains to be done in the months ahead. As just one example, Congress will have to find a more bipartisan approach to prevention and public health. The obesity prevention, childhood immunization, and smoking cessation initiatives that would be impacted by Prevention and Public Health Fund cuts are essential to curbing the onset of costly chronic conditions. For a nation struggling with health care costs, repeated cuts to this Fund without an adequate replacement mechanism are self-defeating.
“If this deal demonstrates anything, it is that much can be accomplished when lawmakers stay focused on constructive, bipartisan health care policy.”