June 04, 2009

Wyden Promotes Strategy to Cut Medicare Costs

Senator introduces "Healthy Living, Healthy Aging Demonstration Project Act of 2009"

Washington, D.C. - Seeking to curb the cost of Medicare by promoting healthy lifestyles that lower the incidence of chronic disease, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today introduced the "Healthy Living, Healthy Aging Demonstration Project Act of 2009." The legislation would establish a demonstration project to evaluate strategies to lower rates of chronic disease for individuals who are about to enter the Medicare program. Up to six eligible partnerships between public health departments and health centers or rural health clinics would be awarded five-year grants for participating in the demonstration project.

"The Healthy Living, Healthy Aging Act is a key tool to improve Americans' health as they age and put the brakes on the rising cost of Medicare," said Wyden. "It will give people the knowledge and help they need to avoid serious illness as they age. That would be a real gift to them and to our nation as a whole."

Chronic diseases are the number one cause of death and disability in the United States, and 45 percent of the country's population has at least one chronic disease. Under the Healthy Living, Healthy Aging Demonstration Act of 2009, funding of $200,000,000 will be authorized for FY 2010 through 2016 for state and local health departments to develop and administer community-based prevention strategies such as walking programs, anti-smoking programs, and healthy eating programs targeted to the pre-Medicare population. Designated medical facilities will provide individual health screenings including tests for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, and other chronic diseases or conditions.

"Right now, millions of Americans enter Medicare with health conditions that could have been lessened or avoided," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of Trust for America's Health. "Sen. Wyden should be commended for introducing a bill that will give more Americans the opportunity to age in a healthy way. The Healthy Living, Healthy Aging Act would provide people with access to preventive programs, like chronic disease screenings and cost-effective, community-based disease prevention interventions that promote healthy eating, smoking cessation, and walking initiatives, before they reach Medicare age. This bill represents an important and effective opportunity to invest in the future health and economic well-being of our country."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will have primary responsibility for evaluating and administering the demonstration project. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will award grants to eligible partnerships for administering health screenings/risk assessment and community-based prevention interventions. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will be required to report to Congress on the status and results of the project no later than 18 months after its completion.