The word “bipartisan” is used rarely if at all in Congress today. It is simply hard to find opportunities where both sides are willing to work together. So it is always news when we hear about such, especially when it comes to an issue as important as Medicare.
This week, the leading Republican on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) introduced important legislation to address problems with the current Medicare system. That legislation is the Beneficiary Education Tools Telehealth Extender Reauthorization (BETTER) Act of 2019, legislation that will improve the quality of and access to services for Medicare beneficiaries.
“It is critical our seniors always have access to quality and affordable care,” said Rep. Brady. “By extending these Medicare provisions and increasing access to services that our patients need, this legislation will take important steps to ensuring those in our Medicare program are protected. I want to thank Chairman Neal for his work on this important bill, and I look forward to continuing our work together to increase access, lower costs for patients across the country, and bring this package to the floor with responsible, bipartisan pay-fors.”
“In addition to lowering costs, we on the Ways and Means Committee want to remove complexity and improve the quality of care for Medicare enrollees across the country,” said Chairman Neal. “This bill supports resources that reduce confusion in the Medicare enrollment process, making it easier for Americans to choose the correct plans and meet important deadlines, to help avoid lifetime late enrollment penalties. Our bipartisan proposal also helps care providers like skilled nursing facilities and hospitals improve their services for beneficiaries. By expanding telehealth benefits, the legislation addresses Medicare beneficiaries’ need for more accessible mental health services. These sorts of advancements are possible when members of Congress work in a bipartisan way, and I’m grateful for Ranking Member Brady’s partnership on this legislation.”
Specifically, the legislation (the following points are quoting from a statement from Rep. Brady):
- “Extends critical expiring Medicare provisions, including funding for the National Quality Forum and State Health Insurance Programs; makes permanent a demonstration that protects low-income beneficiaries enrolling in Medicare Part D; and extends protections for payments to rural providers;
- “Increases funding for counselors who help Medicare beneficiaries with enrollment questions and Medicare plan choices;
- “Improves beneficiary education and outreach prior to initial Medicare enrollment by giving beneficiaries better information to avoid a late enrollment penalty;
- “Continues funding for a program that brings consensus around quality measures for the Medicare program, including those measures that address maternal morbidity and mortality, and improves the value based purchasing program for Medicare skilled nursing facilities;
- “Helps rural and community hospitals that have technical barriers preventing them from starting a graduate medical education program to train physicians and reduce the physician shortage; and
- “Expands Medicare telehealth benefits to improve access to mental health services for Medicare beneficiaries.”
Read the text of the legislation in its entirety HERE.