Bennet's Legislation to Improve Patient Care, Lower Health Care Costs Included in Senate Finance Committee's Health Care Bill

Bill Works to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates Using Proven ‘Care Transitions' Model Developed and Implemented in Colorado

Bennet Pushes to Bring Colorado Model to National Stage, Improve Patient Care & Lower Health Care Costs

Key Parts of Medicare Care Transitions Act Included in the America's Health Future Act

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today announced that key provisions of the legislation he introduced to improve patient care and lower costs using a proven ‘care transitions' model developed in Colorado was included in the America's Health Future Act released by the Senate Finance Committee today. Bennet introduced the Medicare Care Transitions Act of 2009 in May and has been working closely with the Senate Finance Committee to ensure Colorado's model of patient care was included in the draft health care reform bill.

"Colorado has incredible examples of how our nation should coordinate patient care. From Rocky Mountain Health Plans on our Western Slope to the University of Colorado at Denver to Denver Health, Colorado is a leader in efficient patient care that lowers readmission rates and health care costs," Bennet said. "Across our nation, too many seniors are being readmitted to hospitals even though it often is completely preventable. This bill would bring Colorado's transitions of care model to the national stage, ensure better patient care for our seniors and their families, and help to lower health care costs. I want to thank all the Coloradans who worked with me on this important initiative."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today said: "I commend Senator Bennet's work to improve patient care and save money by helping craft the proposed Medicare transitional care pilot. Bringing down the rate of hospital readmissions-the central aim of the project-is an important step toward protecting seniors and lowering health care costs, which are crucial aspects of health care reform that we are working to pass this year."

For every five Medicare patients released from the hospital, one is re-admitted within a month, and more than three-quarters of these readmissions are potentially preventable. This cycle of re-hospitalization disrupts care for Colorado's seniors and costs Medicare more than $17 billion dollars every year. High re-hospitalization rates also put an increased burden on providers who often have trouble coordinating care with patients after they leave their health care setting.

Colorado has been a leader in developing transitional care programs to lower re-hospitalization rates. Dr. Eric Coleman, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, developed the Care Transitions Intervention, a program that helps patients take ownership of their care and regain their independence after hospitalization. This program shrunk costly readmission rates at hospitals by as much as 35%-50% in some communities. In addition, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, which serves the Western Slope, ensures timely follow-up care as patients move from one setting to another and leads the nations with a readmission rate of 1.8%, lower than one-fifth of the national average at 10%.

The Senate Finance Committee health care bill establishes a Community Care Transitions Program. Medicare would run a three-year pilot program to fund partnering eligible hospitals and community-based organizations to provide transitional care services to Medicare beneficiaries at the highest risk of preventable re-hospitalization. Eligible hospitals would be those identified by the Medicare program as having readmission rates above the 75th percentile. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would give preferences to hospitals that disproportionately serve medically underserved populations, as well as well as rural and small community hospitals.

The program's funding level would be set at $500 million over three years. The Secretary would have the authority to continue or expand the scope and duration of the program after certification that the program reduces Medicare spending.

This bill has been endorsed by the National Council on Aging, American Health Quality Association, Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, and the University of Colorado.