Cantwell Moves to Increase Quality of Health Care While Reducing Costs

'MEDIC Act' Highlights Washington's Efficient Care Systems Through Increased Quality, Lower Medicare Costs, Long-Term Care, and Work Force Opportunities

WASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of the start of debate on health care reform legislation, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced the Medical Efficiency and Delivery Improvement of Care (MEDIC) Act, which would increase the quality of care for patients, while reducing costs.  The MEDIC Act addresses three specific areas of health care reform:  reforming Medicare’s pay structure so that it rewards quality of care, not quantity of care, as in the current structure; long-term care services and programs to provide patients with options and alternatives to nursing homes; and increasing the number of practicing primary care doctors to ensure coordinated care for patients.

“As we begin reforming our country’s health care system, one common thread connects this complex puzzle: the need to increase the quality of care patients receive, and the need to bring down the costs of these services,” said Cantwell.  “For years, Washington state has been at the forefront of providing high-quality, accessible and affordable care.  This bill aims to take what’s worked in Washington state and take it nationally.  Reforming health care need not be a zero-sum game.  We can achieve our goals of improving the health care workforce, stabilizing the physician payment structure, improving access to care and decreasing the financial and emotional burdens associated with long-term care while simultaneously providing significant savings throughout the health care system.” 

Included in the MEDIC Act are the following proposals:

Medicare Payment Improvement Act – For years, Washington state has been penalized under the Medicare program for providing efficient, high-quality care.  This legislation is designed to address this longstanding problem by providing incentives for providers to ensure the care their giving to patients is high-quality and low cost on a national scale.  It would create a new physician payment structure that rewards quality, and not quantity, of services. Of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Washington state spends less than 35 of them per beneficiary under Medicare; on average $5,280 per beneficiary.  If every state could achieve this kind of efficiency, the country could save close to $55 billion a year.

Physician Workforce Enhancement Act – This bill seeks to improve access to health care by increasing the number of physicians trained in high-need specialties (family medicine, preventative medicine, pediatrics, or behavioral and mental health) and by expanding the nation’s graduate medical education training capacity to a larger number of suburban and rural hospitals.

Preserving Patient Access to Primary Care Act – This bill addresses two fundamental problems in health care: a critical shortage of primary care physicians and inefficient Medicare reimbursements that do not reward a coordinated approach of patients’ health care needs.  The legislation aims to provide efficient, cost effective, prevention oriented care throughout the country, especially in underserved and rural communities.

Project 2020: Building on the Promise of Home and Community-Based Services Act – This legislation is designed to fix a deficiency in current law that prevents people from accessing long-term care information or services until they have become poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.  By this time, it is often too late to provide cost-effective home care and people end up in nursing homes, where they frequently spend the rest of their lives.  This bill would provide people with the resources they need to pay for the services and support they need to stay in their own homes and communities, while also avoiding Medicaid eligibility.  This will save money and improve access to care.

Home and Community Balancing Incentives Act – This legislation would reform states long-term care systems by offering an enhanced federal Medicaid matching rate to states that are willing to implement programs geared at promoting to home and community based services.

Editors’ Note:  For one page summaries of each of these bills, please contact Cantwell’s press office.

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