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The Senate Just Quietly Expanded Obamacare And Medicare Programs After Humiliating Repeal Defeat

Here’s a shocker!

While the nation has been watching the agonizingly slow death of the latest abominable Republican version of TrumpCare, the Senate has been quietly working on that rarest of things – a bipartisan bill that actually is good for American health care.

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There aren’t many bipartisan bills in this era of divisive politics, but Senators on both sides of the aisle led by Republican Orin Hatch of Utah and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon and others. quietly ushered the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act (CHRONIC) through to a majority vote.

It next must be passed by the House and then signed by President Trump, none of which is a sure thing at this point.

For now, however, the fact at least some Democrats and Republicans worked together to improve an aspect of ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), is cause for cheers.

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The bill amends how Medicare will pay for patient’s chronic conditions, in the process lowering costs and improving home care and other services.

“This legislation will improve disease management,” said Hatch in a statement, “lower Medicare costs and streamline care coordination services – all without adding to the deficit.”
It also “expands some programs created by the Affordable Care Act, but they are more obscure programs that are largely outside the realm of controversy.”

When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided a financial score for the legislation before it unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year, it was the first Medicare-related legislation to get an analysis since 2001, when Social Security was amended to allow for doctors to provide medical services by phone in rural areas.

The CBO found that the bill would add $213 million in improved services for chronically ill seniors over the next decade, but would also ultimately save $375 million by eliminating some Medicare and Medicaid Improvement Funds.

Among the benefits, the bill would include is the expansion of an ObamaCare program that provides in-home care for seniors; new tools for doctors to coordinate patient care,; expanded use of telehealth (care by phone); and it allows Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s) to operate incentive benefit programs.

It also authorizes the continuation of a program for home health care and increases the cap on the number of people who can receive the service from 10,000 to 15,000, and allows for more people to get dialysis services in their own home.

It also authorizes the Government Accountability Office to do studies to improve the efficiency of health care, including a study of prescription drug plans, and a study of weight management drugs on patient health and spending.

After the Finance Committee voted 26 to 0 for the bill, Senator Wyden said: “This is a formal recognition that this package of services – the focus on care at home, the focus on new technology, the expanded role for primary care and prevention, which inevitably leads to more non-physician providers – is the beginning of our push to update the Medicare guarantee. That’s why it is transformative.”
If only there was a way to transform our Congress so that more smart, progressive, modern legislation would result from the efforts of both parties to work together for the benefit of the people who need the help the most, in this case, chronically sick seniors.

The bill was first proposed last year in the Senate by Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who led a working group that held hearings and developed the specifics.

That approach is the opposite of how Republicans tried to push through their horrid health care bill without any hearings, without any input from Democrats, without the assistance of doctors, hospitals, insurance companies or patients.

Luckily, this time, that version of TrumpCare has failed – but even with a wooden stake in the heart of the much-maligned legislation, it could still come back.

What needs to come back is the bipartisan spirit that has led to the CHRONIC Care Act, but with our system sick with a kind of political cancer, that may be too much to ask.

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