April 05, 2005

Wyden, Smith Seek to Improve Long-Term Health Care

New bill increases benefits for best nursing homes,promotes better care through health information sharing

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today introduced legislation that rewards health providers who administer high quality health care and provides better treatment options for long-term care patients. The Long Term Care Quality and Consumer Information Act would increase government payments from Medicare to those nursing homes which provide the highest levels of care, and also would provide for better sharing of information about treatment options and quality of care in nursing homes among patients, their families and medical professionals. "Americans usually pay the same for quality health care as for mediocre care," said Wyden. "While some efforts have been made in the private sector to better recognize providers who consistently provide a higher level of care, it is not enough. This bill aims to give the government a leadership role in improving health care by rewarding hospitals and doctors who improve patient care." "All nursing facilities are not created equal," said Smith. "By offering these incentives, we are rewarding those homes who provide the best quality care while at the same time holding non-performing facilities accountable to the American taxpayer. The net result is higher quality care and better information availability throughout the long-term care industry." Specifically, the Wyden-Smith bill provides incentives to skilled nursing facilities to improve quality of care by linking federal Medicare payments to quality reporting and performance requirements. This incentive system would, in turn, provide more information to consumers about the quality of care provided at nursing home facilities. The information collected to monitor skilled nursing facility performance, including nurse staffing ratios, would be made public to patients and their families. The bill will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where both Senators Wyden and Smith serve.