Senator Wyden Expresses the Importance of Chronic Illness & Updating the Medicare Guarantee

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 8:48 PM

On Wednesday, June 15, the Brookings Institution introduced Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) beside a panel of experts for an event titled, “Chronic care: Getting its complexity and cost under control.” Senator Wyden explained the importance of chronic illness and “updating the Medicare guarantee.”

Senator Wyden explained that the current debate about American health care is “way, way, way out of whack,” and he quoted the “striking lack of attention” to chronic illness as “particularly bizarre” since chronic illness “now dominates” American health care.

“After trading the same blows over the Affordable Care Act for now six years it seems to me it is time for the health care debate to sort of grow up and turn to an issue of enormous consequence for older people across the country,” Senator Wyden said. “And to me, the next major undertaking in American health care is updating the guarantee of Medicare for an era when chronic illness, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke are now what dominates the program and dominates American health care. Older people afflicted by these persistent illnesses now account for an astounding ninety-three percent of all Medicare spending.”

With 10,000 people eligible for Medicare per day, Senator Wyden said, the “guarantee” in which Medicare has been grounded since 1965 “is coming up short.” He explained the importance of home- and community-based care. “Leaving seniors on their own when it comes to coordinating care after preventative visits and uprooting the elderly as a rule by sending them to hospitals when getting treatment at home can be as effective, more comfortable and less expensive, just defies common sense,” he said.

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