Getting Medicare and Medicaid to 100 years

Today is Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th anniversary.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the start of high-quality health care being affordable for all Americans, of making sure our seniors weren’t living in poverty and of health care being accessible to our nation’s most vulnerable. More than 100 million Americans have access to high-quality health care because of Medicare and/or Medicaid.

And I’m pushing for Medicare and Medicaid to be at the forefront of health care innovation to make sure that the 100th anniversary of these irreplaceable, life-saving programs is just as celebratory as this one.

Protecting the Medicare Guarantee

In the last month alone, Medicare has seen two big developments that improve the program for seniors and their families.

Independence at Home

The first is news that Independence at Home (IAH), a Medicare demonstration that provides chronically ill beneficiaries with primary care services in the home setting, reported strong results in both quality of care for seniors and savings for Medicare. That means patients can get the high-quality care they need without worrying about getting to the doctor. IAH also offers incentives for providing patients with care options that offer greater independence and quality of life while reducing costs.

Housecall Providers, based in Portland, Oregon, is one of the program’s early participants. Housecall Providers has been doing tremendous work in Oregon for a long time, and they were the reason why I fought to include the program in the Affordable Care Act and to secure an important two-year extension for the demonstration in July.

In June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced strong results for the first year of the demonstration, and Housecall Providers reported the highest level of cost savings among the 17 practices in the demonstration. Learn more about this cost-saving program here.

I will continue to fight to expand Independence at Home and make it permanent so more seniors have access to this critical benefit.

Care Choices

This month we also celebrated the launch of the Medicare Care Choices Model, which enables beneficiaries to continue receiving curative care while enrolling in hospice care at the same time. I authored the provision in the Affordable Care Act that served as the basis for Care Choices and am extremely proud to see it get off the ground.

Care Choices has the potential to fundamentally shift how we approach end-of-life care. Electing to enroll in hospice no longer has to be a crossroads for seniors considering this type of care.

Currently, Medicare Hospice Benefit enrollees currently must forgo curative treatment – which oftentimes discourages patients from seeking hospice care that may help them cope with their advanced terminal illness. The key in Care Choices is to give patients and their families options at the end of life.

Because of such high interest, CMS expanded the model from an originally anticipated 30 Medicare-certified hospices to over 140 Medicare-certified hospices and extended the duration of the model from 3 to 5 years. You can learn more here.

Providence Health & Services in Portland was one of the five hospices chosen in Region 10, which encompasses all of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Medicaid for another 50 years

Medicaid makes sure that all Americans can afford health coverage, that families won’t have to choose between medicine for their kids and keeping the lights on. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide coverage for more than 71 million Americans, including nearly 30 million kids.

Like Medicare, to keep Medicaid healthy for another 50 years, we need to focus on providing high-quality care while lowering costs. And that’s where Oregon has been leading the way. Our unique Coordinated Care Organizations (think of this like a team of folks focusing on all aspects of health) are already making huge strides to improve the health of Oregonians while bending the cost curve. CCO’s have the flexibility to visit patients’ homes and pay to fix broken floorboards or dangerous rugs that cause people to fall. Instead of treating a patient’s dehydration every there's a heat wave, they can give them a conditioner. This flexibility also allows them to check for mold or teach good nutrition and connect them with community resources.

Happy 50th Medicare and Medicaid! Here’s to fighting for 50 more.