KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmakers Urge Swifter Launch Of Home Health Care Demo

Democratic lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to launch a Medicare home health demonstration project as soon as possible.

"The so-called Independence at Home (IAH) program, included as part of the Democrats' new health reform law, is scheduled to take effect no later than Jan. 1, 2012, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) warn that waiting that long would threaten the health of one of the country's most vulnerable populations," The Hill reports. "The lawmakers are pressing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to install the program 'sooner rather than later,' with a target launch within six months." The push may also have a political incentive. "With many seniors wary of the Medicare cuts contained in the Democrats' new health reform law, party leaders are eager to prove that those cuts won't harm the quality of care… It was CMS that, leery of potential complications surrounding implementation, had pushed lawmakers to delay the required launch of the IAH program until 2012" (Lillis, 6/29).

Congressional Quarterly: "Under the three-year demonstration project, people with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer's disease would have primary care provided in their home by teams of providers directed by physicians and nurse practitioners. Seniors with chronic conditions account for 85 percent of Medicare spending and often receive disjointed and badly managed care through the current Medicare system, Wyden and Markey said" in a letter to Medicare administrators. "Organizations that contract to participate are held accountable for producing 5 percent savings in the cost of the beneficiaries' care, but at the same time improving the quality of care and satisfying family members and caregivers. In return, the organization gets a share of the savings beyond 5 percent" (Norman, 6/29).

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