Senate Finance Committees Unanimously Passes Bipartisan CHRONIC Care Act of 2017

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed (26-0) the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017, S. 870, a bipartisan bill to strengthen and improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions.

Reintroduced last month by Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with 18 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill “marks an important step toward updating and strengthening Medicare’s guarantee of comprehensive health benefits for seniors,” according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the committee. “Medicare policy cannot stand idly by while the needs of people in the program shift to managing multiple costly chronic diseases. This bill provides new options and tools for seniors and their doctors to coordinate care and makes it less burdensome to stay healthy.”

According to a summary of the CHRONIC Care Act of 2017, the bill would improve the Medicare program through policies targeting traditional fee-for-service, Medicare Advantage, and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Highlights include:

  • Expands and extends the Independence at Home (IAH) program, which allows seniors with multiple, complex, and often expensive chronic conditions to receive specialized care at home from a team of healthcare providers.
  • Allows Medicare Advantage (MA) plans in every state to tailor coordination and benefits to specific patient groups, in contrast to current law, which mandates uniform benefits.
  • Permanently extends Special Needs Plans (SNPs), and requires greater coordination for chronically ill enrollees and dual-eligibles enrolled in a D-SNP plan.
  • Allows MA plans to offer a wider array of supplemental benefits that may be non-health related to better address the underlying causes of chronic illness.
  • Establishes a program allowing certain Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to use their own money to help assigned patients afford important primary care services needed to manage the individual’s chronic conditions.
  • Gives certain ACOs the option to have beneficiaries assigned prospectively (at the beginning of a performance year) rather than retrospectively—with the goal of providing the ACOs increased financial predictability and certainty along with the flexibility to target needed services to individuals living with chronic conditions.
  • Allows an MA plan to include additional telehealth services in its bid, and gives certain ACOs more flexibility to provide telehealth services.
  • Allows beneficiaries receiving dialysis treatments at home to do their monthly check-in with their doctor via telehealth, rather than traveling to the doctor’s office or hospital.
  • Expands the availability of telehealth to ensure individuals who may be having a stroke receive the right diagnosis and treatment.

Now that it has cleared committee, the CHRONIC Care Act will move on to the full Senate, though no date has been scheduled yet. We will keep you updated.