As ongoing Obamacare repeal efforts cloud the future of Medicaid, a bipartisan pair of representatives introduced a bill they claim will help strengthen Medicare Advantage access for the most vulnerable seniors.
H.R. 3168 would reauthorize Medicare Special Needs Plans, which are generally restricted to recipients who need institutional care, must manage chronic illnesses, or qualify for Medicare and Medicaid — so-called “dual-eligibles.” Crucially for skilled nursing providers, the legislation would permanently reauthorize the implementation of Institutional SNPs (I-SNPs), plans that specifically provide care for residents who require more than 90 days of skilled services.
The House Ways and Means Committee touted the bipartisan nature of the bill, which was introduced by Health Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, and ranking member Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat.
“Our bipartisan legislation will provide the certainty these patients need to access the quality care they rely on over the long term,” Tiberi said in prepared remarks while introducing the bill. “While Congress has routinely reauthorized SNPs every two to three years, this legislation puts the SNP program on a stronger and more permanent path.”
While Medicaid reform has dominated the headlines, Medicare residents still accounted for 13.7% of patient days in March, according to research from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), with an additional 6.7% of managed Medicare patient days.
The legislation would reauthorize SNPs for dual-eligibles and patients with chronic health needs for five years. It also includes several provisions aimed at improving outcomes, requesting that the Secretary of Health and Human Services develop ways to collect more detailed data at the plan level, and requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct three studies about the efficacy of SNPs.
“This important legislation is another example of our bipartisan action to make targeted, immediate improvements to the Medicare program,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with Chairman Tiberi and Ranking Member Levin to extend and strengthen programs like SNP that make Medicare more efficient – not only by improving care for beneficiaries, but also by reducing costs for taxpayers,” he added.
Written by Alex Spanko