May 21, 2009 - Markey, Wyden Bill to Provide Home Care To Improve Quality of Life, Reduce Costs

Lawmakers Re-Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral “Independence at Home” Act

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2009) – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over health care policy, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over health care policy,  today reintroduced the Independence at Home Act, H.R. 2560.  The bill will create a 3-year pilot program to bring primary care medical services to Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions in their homes. It will offer incentives for providing patients with care options that offer greater independence and quality of life while reducing costs. Pilot programs will be set up in 26 states, and the legislation has attracted bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, including:  Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin, (D- Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“As health care reform efforts move forward, we have a golden opportunity to provide high-quality affordable care for our most vulnerable seniors in the comfort of their own homes,” said Rep. Markey.

“This bi-partisan bill will help coordinate care and lower costs for Medicare beneficiaries with multiple debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer’s, ALS, congestive heart failure, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Our current health care system does a poor job caring for seriously ill Americans, who often are ‘lost in transition’, struggling to manage multiple illnesses as they transition between emergency room, hospital, nursing facility and home. The Independence at Home Act holds great promise for reducing hospitalizations, preventing medication errors, and lifting the spirits of those who, after a lifetime of contributions to our society, deserve the dignity and peace of mind that comes with living independently,” concluded Rep. Markey.

“Patients with multiple chronic conditions spend far too much of their time trying to coordinate an inefficient and expensive patchwork of healthcare delivery systems, leaving little time to enjoy their lives,” Wyden said. “The Independence at Home Act will address the challenges of caring for persons with chronic conditions by better integrating their care and working with their caregivers to manage their conditions and medications.”

"I am pleased to join my good friend Ed Markey in introducing the Independence at Home Act of 2009 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," said Rep. Smith. 

The Independence at Home (IAH) is bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation that:
•    Establishes a voluntary patient-centered, pilot program in the 13 highest cost states, 13 additional states, and the District of Columbia;
•    Uses a coordinated health care delivery model to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions who also need help with two or more activities of daily living (i.e., bathing, dressing, grooming, transferring, feeding, or toileting) can remain independent for as long as possible in the comfort of their own homes;
•    Provides a better, more cost-effective way to get these patients the care they need from health professionals who know them, their problems, their medications, and their other health care providers;
•    Reduces costs by coordinating the care of these patients and reducing duplicative and unnecessary services, preventing hospitalizations, and lowering other health care costs;
•    Creates an incentive for additional savings through investment in health IT and other technologies; and
•    Develops a new, attractive career path for primary care physicians by enabling them to own IAH organizations and receive reimbursement for house calls.
 The bill is based on physician house call programs operating successfully for years across the country and offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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."

“The Independence at Home Act would drastically improve the ability to coordinate in home medical care,” Burr said. “This optional program will reduce re-hospitalizations and allow end-of-life care in a more comfortable setting.  When loved ones are in and out of the hospital it can have a devastating impact, emotionally and physically, on the patient and the family.  This program allows for better quality of care in a more comfortable environment.”

“Coordinated care that puts the patient at the center of medical decisions is essential for all Americans, but particularly for those diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses,” said Cardin. “The Independence at Home Act will result in improved patient care while saving time and overall costs.”
The Independence at Home Act has been endorsed by the following organizations:
•          AARP
•          Intel Corporation
•          Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
•          Alzheimer’s Association
•          Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
•          American Academy of Home Care Physicians
•          American Academy of Neurology
•          American Academy of Physician Assistants
•          American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
•          American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
•          American College of Nurse Practitioners
•          American Society of Consultant Pharmacists
•          Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving
•          Housecalls Doctors of Texas
•          Housecall Providers, Inc. (Portland, OR)
•          National Family Caregivers Association
•          Maryland-National Capital Home Care Association
•          Massachusetts Neurologic Society
•          MD2U Doctors Who Make Housecalls (Louisville, KY)
•          Naples Health Care Associates
•          National Council on Aging
•          Urban Medical House Calls (Boston, MA)
•          US PIRG
•          Visiting Nurse Associations of America
The full text of the Independence at Home Act of 2009 is available here.