September 26, 2008

Whitehouse Cosponsors “Independence at Home” Act

Senators and Representatives Seek Solutions to Care for Chronically Ill

Washington, D.C. – Working to improve the health outcomes and care options for chronically ill patients on Medicare, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the “Independence at Home Act” today. The bill will create incentives for providing patients with care options that offer greater independence and quality of life and will set up demonstration projects in 26 states. The bill has attracted widespread support in both the House and Senate, including: Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-Md), and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).

“For too long, people struggling with multiple chronic conditions have had to handle their health challenges while wading their way through a complex system of multiple specialists, with too little guidance and coordination,” said Wyden. “The Independence at Home Act will not only improve patients’ health and offer them more freedom – it should also lead to finding better ways to deliver care and cut costs.”

“Our bill puts patients first by promoting coordinated care designed to quickly identify and treat emerging health problems and, where possible, avoid hospitalizations, improving patients’ quality of life while also cutting costs. Patients and their families will spend less time juggling conflicting diagnoses and multiple doctors, and more time focused on living their lives as independently as possible, in their own homes. I am proud to partner with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and in both bodies of the Congress, on this important legislation,” said Rep. Markey.
The Independence at Home Act:

• Establishes a three-year Medicare demonstration project using a patient-centered health care delivery model to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions can remain independent for as long as possible in a comfortable environment;
• Advances Medicare reform by creating incentives for providers to develop better and lower-cost health care for the highest cost beneficiaries;
• Incorporates lessons from past Medicare demonstration projects;
• Provides for physician and nurse practitioner-directed programs that hold providers accountable for quality, patient satisfaction, and mandatory annual minimum savings; and
• Generates savings by providing better care to Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions and reducing duplicative and unnecessary services, hospitalization, and other health care costs.

Persons eligible for the program include Medicare beneficiaries with functional impairments, two or more chronic health problems, and recent use of other health services. Each Independence at Home (IAH) patient will receive a comprehensive assessment at least annually. The IAH organization will be required to demonstrate savings of at least 5 percent annually compared with the costs of serving non-participating Medicare chronically ill beneficiaries. The IAH organization may keep 80 percent of savings beyond the required 5 percent savings as an incentive to maximize the financial benefits of being an IAH member.

“As our nation anticipates the retirement of 78 million baby boomers, it is becoming more and more important to support programs that help keep seniors at home and independent,” said Senator Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Retirement and Aging. “I will continue to fight to keep seniors across the country a priority so they may be able to age in place.”

“Improving home health care will improve the quality of care for millions of elderly Americans coping with chronic illness,” said Whitehouse. “By reducing trips to the hospital and providing high quality patient care at home, these demonstration projects will prevent expensive emergency room visits and ease the burden of illness on patients and their families.”

“Balancing the exploding cost of healthcare and the increased needs of our citizens is one of the greatest issues facing our country. The Independence at Home Act puts patients first with coordinated benefits and care but has the added benefit of lowering costs while increasing quality of life,” said Senator Cardin.

Rep. Chris Smith said, “I am pleased to join my good friend Ed Markey in introducing the Independence at Home Act of 2008 and thank him for his leadership on this issue. This legislation will enable Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions to receive the care they need and remain in a comfortable home environment for as long as possible. Physicians, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals will have the tools necessary to maximize patient care while minimizing cost and at the same time generate savings.”

The following organizations have announced their support for the Independence at Home Act:

• The American Academy of Home Care Physicians
• The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
• The National Family Caregivers Association
• The Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving
• The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
• The Maryland-National Capital Home Care Association
• The Visiting Nurse Associations of America
• Intel Corp


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921