February 04, 2019

Kilmer, Bipartisan Lawmakers Re-Introduce Bill to Boost Access to Quality Health Care in Rural Areas

 TACOMA, Wash.Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) reintroduced bipartisan legislation this week that would boost Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) for patients and health care providers in rural areas. Joining him on the bill are a bipartisan group of cosponsors including: Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Grace Meng (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). The ACO Assignment Improvement Act of 2019 would create new options within the Medicare Shared Savings Program to increase patient access to quality care while reducing costs in underserved areas.

 Accountable Care Organizations are groups of hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers who voluntarily join together to coordinate care for a specific patient population. In ACOs, health care providers are responsible for effectively managing the health and wellness of patients: when an ACO delivers high-quality care at a lower cost than traditional fee-for-service spending, the ACO recoups part of the savings. Created by Congress in 2010, the Medicare Shared Savings Program is voluntary and enables health care providers to share savings with Medicare if they beat cost targets and achieve specified quality measures.

 “No matter where you live, you ought to be able to go to a health care provider,” Kilmer said. “Congress needs to step up and create more options for rural Americans so that everyone can get medical care close to home and stay healthy without breaking the bank. This legislation will do that, and it also rewards health care providers who are focused on improving the quality of care and putting their patients first.”

The President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), Joyce Knestrick, endorsed the bill and voiced the support of her organization:

 “The American Association of Nurse Practitioners applauds Representatives Kilmer, Tipton, Meng, Holmes Norton and King on introducing the ACO Assignment Improvement Act. Accountable Care Organizations play a key role as our nation transforms from a volume-based to value-based health care system. While current law recognizes nurse practitioners as ACO providers, this legislation ensures NPs and their patients are fully included under the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Nurse practitioners provide high quality care to patients, and it is critical that they are recognized as full participants in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.”

 Under the bill, Medicare patients assigned to an ACO would be allowed to obtain treatment from nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse-midwives, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, and registered dieticians or nutrition professionals. Through these changes, ACO assignments would be more effective in rural communities that have too few primary care physicians. It would also provide more participants to health care providers who participate in ACOs so they can be successful over the long-term. 

 Kilmer is working to protect and expand rural health care options. He is currently pushing back against a Medicare rule change that would devastate hospitals in rural regions where there are limited health care options.

 This is the third time Kilmer has introduced this legislation, and the first time he has done so in the majority.