May 21, 2009

Wyden, Gregg, Blumenauer Put Patients in the Driver's Seat

"Empowering Medicare Patient Choices Act" introduced in Senate and House

Washington, DC — Giving Medicare patients a greater role in their care while containing costs of that care, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) along with U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) today introduced the Empowering Medicare Patient Choices Act. The bill will create a "shared decision-making process" between physicians and patients, offering incentives for doctors to inform patients of all their treatment options, and the risks and benefits of those options, before deciding on a course of treatment.

"The goal is care that both engages patients and gives them control," said Wyden. "Our legislation would improve patient health while taking aim at the thirty percent of medical spending that currently goes down the drain in unnecessary or duplicative care each year."

Gregg stated, "Shared decision making is a critical component to improving the quality of health care and the satisfaction of patients while also reducing costs. This is a win for patients who want to get better as quickly as possible; a win for providers who know that their patients are getting the best treatment for them; and a win for the taxpayer who will benefit from taking waste out of the system. Our nation can't hope to get control of health care costs without incorporating common-sense proposals like shared decision making."

"Empowering patients is a key component to reforming our nation's healthcare system," said Blumenauer. "The onset of an illness creates so much stress and anxiety for patients and their families. Shared decision making helps people learn about their treatment options so that they can have meaningful discussions with their doctor about what is the right course for them. Patient-focused programs, such as this, are exactly what we should be considering in healthcare reform."

The bill seeks to open up avenues for conversation between physicians and patients so that patients fully understand their treatment options when there is more than one clinically appropriate treatment. Doctors would be reimbursed for the extra time spent counseling patients. Research by the Dartmouth Atlas Project has documented that medical care varies depending on the region of the country it is delivered in, driven by local medical opinion rather than sound science or well-informed patient preference. Such variations lead to both under-use and over-use of treatments, which leads to waste within the Medicare system.

"Empowering patients through shared decision making is key to any real health care reform," said Dr. Weinstein with the Dartmouth Atlas Project. "Partnering with our patients improves care, provides better outcomes, greater patient satisfaction, and reduces costs. I applaud Senators Wyden and Gregg, and Rep. Blumenauer for their farsighted leadership."

The legislation creates a three-step phase-in of patient decision aids which are informational videos and other educational materials about the patient's treatment options into the Medicare program. Phase I is a three-year period allowing ‘early adopting' providers to participate in the pilot, providing data and serving as Shared Decision Making Resource Centers. Phase II is a three-year period during which providers will be eligible to receive reimbursement for the use of certified patient decision aids. The final stage requires providers to use patient decision aids for certain conditions as a standard of practice.

This bill has been endorsed by:

· Jim Weinstein, Dartmouth Atlas Project

· Group Health Cooperative

· Consumers Union


· Medicare Rights Center

· National Partnership for Women and Families American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care Oregon Health Sciences University

· Kaiser Permanente