Issue: Health Care

Walorski, Kuster Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling on VA Clinicians to Check State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Walorski, Kuster Lead Bipartisan Letter Calling on VA Clinicians to Check State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) today led a bipartisan group of 25 members of Congress in calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide an update on their actions to ensure VA clinicians are complying with a law that aims to prevent overprescribing of opioids to veterans. The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act was  introduced by Kuster in 2017, co-sponsored by Walorski, and enacted with bipartisan support. The legislation requires VA clinicians to check prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) for patients receiving opioid therapy.  A recent report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that most VA clinicians are not adhering to the law and two-thirds of clinicians are unaware of the policy altogether.

“In light of the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which has had a significant impact on veterans, we firmly believe that PDMP databases have proven effective and are valuable tools in tracking the coordination of prescriptions, preventing drug abuse and diversion, and reducing doctor shopping,” wrote the members. “We request an update on the actions VA is taking to carry out the recommendations outlined in the OIG report in order to ensure that VA clinicians are in full compliance with the law and providing the level of care our veterans deserve.”

PDMPs are statewide electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions. They can provide health authorities with up to date information about prescribing and patient behaviors that fuel the opioid epidemic and facilitate a smart, targeted response. Legislation introduced by Walorski, co-sponsored by Kuster, and passed into law in 2016 as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act requires VA to share information with state PDMPs in order to prevent overprescribing of opioids.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

October 30, 2019

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie,

As members of Congress who have been actively involved in crafting policy to prevent the overprescribing of opioids to veterans, we write with concern over a recent report (#18-02830-164) from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found most Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinicians are not adhering to requirements to check state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) for patients engaged with opioid therapy.

Specifically, the report found that from April 1, 2017, through March 31, 2018, VA clinicians failed to check PDMP databases for 567,000 of the 779,000 VA patients who are currently undergoing treatment with opioids.  It is estimated that 107,000 of the 567,000 patients for whom VA clinicians failed to make the required PDMP checks were at risk for opioid abuse or addiction due to poorly managed opioid treatment. Even more concerning, two-thirds of the 66 VA clinicians who were interviewed said they were unaware of the department policy regarding PDMPs, and only a quarter received training on PDMPs.

As you are aware, Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs) previously had the option to voluntarily report data to PDMPs, but were not mandated to do so as are all other doctors and pharmacists.  This created a glaring void in reporting that left veterans, already at an increased risk of abuse, even more vulnerable. In response to this situation, we worked together to enact legislation during the 114th Congress requiring the VA to report to state PDMPs.  In light of the nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which has had a significant impact on veterans, we firmly believe that PDMP databases have proven effective and are valuable tools in tracking the coordination of prescriptions, preventing drug abuse and diversion, and reducing doctor shopping.

We request an update on the actions VA is taking to carry out the recommendations outlined in the OIG report in order to ensure that VA clinicians are in full compliance with the law and providing the level of care our veterans deserve.  If you have any questions, your staff can contact Stephen Simonetti at stephen.simonetti@mail.house.gov or 202-225-3915, or Melanie Spears at melanie.spears@mail.house.gov or 202-225-5206.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Medicare 101

Medicare 101 3

The Medicare enrollment period is coming up, and we want to help answer your questions.

On October 8th, 15th, and 16th, a member of my staff and a Medicare specialist from Indiana’s State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) will hold “Medicare 101” educational sessions throughout the 2nd District to answer questions about Medicare.

Medicare is a sacred commitment we have made to our seniors, and part of keeping that promise is ensuring Hoosiers have all the information they need to secure their benefits.

The Fall 2019 “Medicare 101” events will take place in Elkhart, Goshen, La Porte, Mishawaka, Peru, Plymouth, Wabash, and Winamac.

If you are at or near retirement or are a caregiver for a Medicare beneficiary and you want to learn more about the program, I encourage you to attend our “Medicare 101” educational sessions to learn the basics of Medicare and have your questions answered by experts.


Information about the “Medicare 101” sessions can be found below:

Tuesday, October 8th, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. ET
Mishawaka Penn Public Library
Eisen Room
209 Lincolnway East
Mishawaka, IN 46544

Tuesday, October 8th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Goshen Public Library
Auditorium
601 S. 5th St.
Goshen, IN 46526

Tuesday, October 8th, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. ET
Elkhart Public Library
Rooms 5/6
300 S. Second St.
Elkhart, IN 46516

Tuesday, October 15th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. ET
Pulaski County Highway Garage
1131 North U.S. 35
Winamac, IN 46996

Tuesday, October 15th, 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. CT (1:30 – 3:30 p.m. ET)
La Porte Park & Recreation
250 Pine Lake Ave.
La Porte, IN 46350

Tuesday, October 15th, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Plymouth Public Library
Laramore Room A/B
201 N. Center St.
Plymouth, IN 46563

Wednesday, October 16th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. ET
Wabash City Hall
Council Chamber
202 S. Wabash St.
Wabash, IN 46992

Wednesday, October 16th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Peru Public Library
Psi Iota Xi Room
102 E. Main St.
Peru, IN 46970

Walorski Announces “Medicare 101” Sessions

Walorski Announces “Medicare 101” Sessions

Office Hosting Educational Events Throughout District on Oct. 8th, 15th, and 16th to Answer Medicare Questions

Medicare 101 3

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today announced her office will host “Medicare 101” educational sessions across the 2nd District to give Hoosiers the opportunity to learn the basics about the Medicare program, including enrollment, and have their questions answered by experts.

This year’s “Medicare 101” events will take place in Elkhart, Goshen, La Porte, Mishawaka, Peru, Plymouth, Wabash, and Winamac.

“Medicare is a sacred commitment we have made to our seniors, and part of keeping that promise is providing Hoosiers the information and assistance they need to secure the benefits they deserve,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These ‘Medicare 101’ educational sessions are a great way for Hoosier seniors to learn more about Medicare and have their questions answered by experts. I encourage all 2nd District Hoosiers who are at or near retirement age – or who are caregivers for Medicare beneficiaries – to attend one of these incredibly helpful events.”

A caseworker from Walorski’s office and a Medicare specialist from Indiana’s State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) will present information about the basics of Medicare and answer constituents’ questions. Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment begins October 15, and “Medicare 101” sessions will allow current Medicare beneficiaries and those approaching Medicare age to learn more about the program.

Information about “Medicare 101” can be found at walorski.house.gov/medicare and below.

MISHAWAKA 

Tuesday, October 8th, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. ET

Mishawaka Penn Public Library
Eisen Room
209 Lincolnway East
Mishawaka, IN 46544

GOSHEN

Tuesday, October 8th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

Goshen Public Library
Auditorium
601 S. 5th St.
Goshen, IN 46526

ELKHART

Tuesday, October 8th, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. ET

Elkhart Public Library
Rooms 5/6
300 S. Second St.
Elkhart, IN 46516

WINAMAC

Tuesday, October 15th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. ET

Pulaski County Highway Garage
1131 North U.S. 35
Winamac, IN 46996

LA PORTE

Tuesday, October 15th, 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. CT (1:30 – 3:30 p.m. ET)

La Porte Park & Recreation
250 Pine Lake Ave.
La Porte, IN 46350

PLYMOUTH

Tuesday, October 15th, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET

Plymouth Public Library
Laramore Room A/B
201 N. Center St.
Plymouth, IN 46563

WABASH

Wednesday, October 16th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. ET

Wabash City Hall
Council Chamber
202 S. Wabash St.
Wabash, IN 46992

PERU

Wednesday, October 16th, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET

Peru Public Library
Psi Iota Xi Room
102 E. Main St.
Peru, IN 46970

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Announces $1M Grant to Combat Opioid Crisis in Starke County

Walorski Announces $1M Grant to Combat Opioid Crisis in Starke County

Porter-Starke Services Awarded Funding to Support Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Efforts in Rural Communities

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today announced a $1 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support efforts by Porter-Starke Services and the Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention (STOP) to combat the opioid epidemic in Starke County.

“The opioid crisis is one of the most serious challenges facing our communities, but by working together at all levels we are making major strides toward ending this devastating epidemic,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “In Starke County, community leaders have joined together to make a difference for their fellow Hoosiers, and this $1 million grant will provide them with critical resources in the fight to prevent and treat addiction, assist in recovery, and save lives.”

Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) stated, “I congratulate Porter-Starke Services and its partners for successfully securing funds that will prevent overdoses on opioids and other substances in our state, expand available treatments, and ultimately give individuals struggling with addiction a second chance at full and healthy lives. Looking forward, I will continue to work hard alongside Congresswoman Walorski, Porter-Stark Services, and other advocates to counter the root causes of the addiction crisis and ensure that every resident and family in Indiana has the resources necessary to take back their lives from this disease.”

“We’re very grateful to have additional financial support from HRSA to help address the opiate crisis here in our community,” said Matt Burden, President/CEO of Porter-Starke Services. “Over the past year, organizations and communities like ours have worked collaboratively to put together a comprehensive plan to improve in our efforts to reduce the prevalence and impact of opioid misuse. Now we are fortunate to be able to put that plan into action for the health and well-being of Starke County residents.”

BACKGROUND

Porter-Starke Services and Starke County were among 80 recipients nationwide of funding through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP), a multi-year initiative supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to address barriers to access in rural communities related to substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.

The funding, totaling $1,000,000 over three years, will support a plan developed by the Starke Taskforce for Overdose Prevention (STOP) to address gaps in prevention, treatment, workforce development, recovery services, and access to care. STOP includes more than 20 community representatives from the education, government, law enforcement, health care, and substance abuse treatment sectors. It is coordinated by Todd Willis, Director of Prevention & Education at Porter-Starke Services.

Porter-Starke Services is a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) with offices in Valparaiso, Portage, and Knox, and a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with offices in Gary and Hebron.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Votes to Repeal Cadillac Tax; Seeks Vote on Medical Device Tax Repeal, Health Insurance Tax Delay

Walorski Votes to Repeal Cadillac Tax; Seeks Vote on Medical Device Tax Repeal, Health Insurance Tax Delay

Speaks on House Floor in Effort to Bring Bipartisan Bills to a Vote

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) on Wednesday voted to repeal the “Cadillac tax” and sought a House vote on bipartisan bills to repeal the medical device tax and delay the health insurance tax.

“Ending the Cadillac tax will provide important relief to both employers and employees, but this bill doesn’t include repealing other burdensome taxes like the medical device tax and the health insurance tax,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “It is critical that we repeal all three of these burdensome taxes before they go back into effect. Doing so will help lower premiums, improve access to care, and boost American manufacturing jobs.”

Video of Walorski speaking on the House floor is available here.

BACKGROUND

Walorski spoke in support of a procedural effort to amend the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 748) to include the Protect Medical Innovation Act (H.R. 2207) and the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act (H.R. 1398). The effort was defeated on a party-line vote.

H.R. 748, which would repeal Obamacare’s 40 percent “Cadillac tax” on certain employer-provided health plans, passed the House by a vote of 419 to 6.

H.R. 2207, which Walorski introduced in April, would lower the cost of life-saving medical devices and create jobs by repealing the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales. The 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device sales took effect under Obamacare in 2013, but has been suspended since 2016.

H.R. 1398, which Walorski introduced in February, would stop Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax (HIT) from going into effect until after 2021. According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the HIT could increase premiums by over $470 per family in 2020 if not stopped.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Introduces Bill to Support Homecare Needs for Older Americans

Walorski Introduces Bill to Support Homecare Needs for Older Americans

Bipartisan Legislation Would Allow Seniors to Use Health Savings Accounts for At-Home Care Services

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), and John Larson (D-Conn.) this week introduced bipartisan legislation to help older Americans living at home by allowing tax-free distributions from health savings accounts (HSAs) to cover qualified homecare services.

“Seniors who face health challenges but want to continue living at home often rely on at-home care services like assistance with eating, bathing, or taking their medications,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These services play a critical role in helping older Americans live healthier, more independent lives. The bipartisan Homecare for Seniors Act will help seniors access the care they need by allowing them to use HSA funds for at-home health care services.”

“I’ve heard from older constituents in California’s 45th Congressional District about the importance of staying in their own homes while receiving care,” Congresswoman Porter said. “I’m proud to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this legislation that would allow older Americans the freedom to put more of their own money into homecare.”

“Seniors should be able to age with dignity and stay in their homes as long as possible. Allowing Americans to use their own savings in Health Savings Accounts to pay for home health care is a common sense way to make this a more accessible option for Americans. I am proud to introduce this bill with Congresswoman Porter today,” said Congressman Larson.

“Folks who have paid into Health Savings Accounts their whole lives should be given flexibility to spend their own money on their needs. For many seniors, the ability to stay in their own homes while receiving care is of the utmost importance and can help save on health care costs in the long term” said Congressman Smith. “I am glad to be a cosponsor of this commonsense legislation which puts seniors first.”

“With health care costs ever growing, the home is the ideal and most efficient setting for seniors in need of assistance with activities of daily living,” said Calvin McDaniel, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. “Relaxing restrictions on distributions of health savings account funds is a simple way to open up access to these services.”

BACKGROUND

HSAs allow individuals to set aside pre-tax money to pay for medical expenses. Many seniors who have paid into HSAs for years are unable to use these funds for qualified homecare expenses under current law. This legislation would make such expenses eligible.

Qualified home care provides seniors with services including assistance with eating, assistance with toileting, assistance with bathing, assistance with dressing, and assistance with continence or medication adherence.

The legislation is supported by the Homecare Association of America, Home Instead, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Leading Age, the National Alliance for Caregiving, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the International Franchise Association, and the Caregiver Action Network.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski, Lipinski, Kelly, Peterson Introduce Employee Flexibility Act

Walorski, Lipinski, Kelly, Peterson Introduce Employee Flexibility Act

Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill Would Restore Traditional 40-Hour Definition of Full-Time Employment Under Obamacare

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) today introduced the Employee Flexibility Act (H.R. 2782), bipartisan legislation would provide relief to middle-income families by restoring the traditional 40-hour work week under the Affordable Care Act. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

“The redefinition of full-time employment under Obamacare is hurting workers who want to earn more money by picking up extra hours or trading shifts, and it’s placing unnecessary burdens on our Main Street job creators,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “The Employee Flexibility Act will bring relief to hardworking Hoosiers by ensuring they have flexibility in the hours they work each week. This bipartisan, commonsense bill will also give businesses the certainty they need to expand, invest in our communities, and create more jobs.”

“Most Americans will tell you that a full-time workweek is 40 hours, not 30,” Congressman Lipinski said. “Changing the law to keep middle class families from having to make the painful choice of being forced to live with less or finding another part-time job to make up the difference is just common sense. Thanks to Congresswoman Walorski and my colleagues for their leadership on this bipartisan bill.”

“Obamacare created a lot of problems for American workers, including its definition of full-time employment at 29 and a half hours,” Congressman Kelly said. “Employers are required to provide health insurance to employees who qualify as full time, so many workers employed by small businesses are having trouble picking up extra hours to make ends meet. The Employee Flexibility Act, of which I am a proud co-author, would restore the 40-hour work week to help workers and ease the burden on businesses!”

“This legislation restores the traditional definition of a full time job and would benefit employers who seek to have both full and part time employees,” Congressman Peterson said.

“We thank our own Congresswoman Jackie Walorski for her leadership on reestablishing the 40-hour workweek to help hard-working Hoosiers and Indiana small business community,” said Mark McDonnell, founder and CEO of LaSalle Hospitality Group. “Countless employees love restaurants because they offer flexible, part-time work. These employees may also be going to school, raising a family, or pursuing other aspirations. But current laws restrict a variable workforce and inhabit an employee’s ability to manage their own schedule. Additionally, most accounting systems weren’t designed to accommodate the two different full-time designations businesses must operate under. This makes administration a nightmare and the added costs affect restaurants’ hiring and expansion plans. We appreciate Rep. Walorski’s efforts to introduce and advance the bipartisan Employee Flexibility Act.”

“On behalf of Ben’s Soft Pretzels, a mission-driven organization with 76 bakeries in 10 states, we thank Representatives Jackie Walorski and Dan Lipinski for introducing the ‘Employee Flexibility Act,’” said Brian Krider, co-founder and COO of Ben’s soft Pretzels. “Our employees and the communities we serve are our greatest asset and we support federal legislation to expand both scheduling flexibility and opportunities for growth. We strongly support commonsense, bipartisan legislation to enact a 40-hour per week threshold to determine a full-time employee.”

BACKGROUND

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, requires employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers to offer health insurance to full-time employees or face a penalty. The law defines full-time status as 30 hours of work per week, significantly below the traditional standard of 40 hours, as defined under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Under the standard 40-hour definition of a work week, hourly employees had more flexibility to pick up hours or trade shifts with their co-workers. Since the implementation of the 30-hour threshold, variable-hour and part-time employees have lost the flexibility to earn more money by adding or trading shifts.

The bipartisan, bicameral Employee Flexibility Act would provide flexibility to employees and relief to small businesses by changing the definition of a full-time employee under the ACA to 40 hours per week, putting it back in line with the widely-used traditional definition. The same legislation previously passed the House in 2014 and 2015.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Increase Health Care Access for Veterans’ Newborns

Walorski Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Increase Health Care Access for Veterans’ Newborns

Newborn Care Improvement Act Would Extend VA Health Care for Newborns

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve health care coverage for newborn children of veterans. The Newborn Care Improvement Act would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide care for newborns for 14 days, doubling the current limit of seven days.

“Women who served our country with strength and courage deserve the best health care possible from the VA,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “By improving care for newborns, this bipartisan bill will ensure women veterans get the support and care they need to raise healthy families.”

“Our women veterans deserve the best health care and maternal care for them and their families,” said Lee. “Starting a family can be an overwhelming time for anyone, making it even more important to ensure our veterans have the resources and time they need to get the best maternal care. I’m proud to team up with Rep. Collins–who has been a leader on this issue for years, Rep. Houlahan, and Rep. Walorski to work across the aisle and introduce the Newborn Care Improvement Act and help improve the lives of our braves veterans and their families.”

“Too often, new mothers receiving medical care from the VA face financial challenges and complex insurance decisions while seeking to obtain critical care for their newborns,” said Collins. “Ensuring the VA expands care for the women who selflessly serve in our armed forces continues to be a priority for me, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Newborn Care Improvement Act. This legislation will ease the burden on female veterans by doubling the length of time their newborns are eligible to receive medical care from the VA.”

“As a veteran, I know all too well the challenges new veteran mothers face,” said Houlahan. “No new mother should have to worry about where their newborn will receive care. I’m proud to work across the aisle and join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Newborn Care Improvement, a critical piece of legislation that will double the length of time veteran mothers’ newborns can receive medical care at the VA. It is essential that we continue the necessary work to better support our brave women veterans and their families.”

BACKGROUND

The Newborn Care Improvement Act would allow the VA to provide 14 days of post-delivery care to the newborn child of a woman veteran who is receiving VA maternity care. The child must have been delivered in a VA facility or another facility with which VA has a contract for such services. Currently, such care may not be provided for more than seven days. The bill would also require a report to Congress on how many newborns receive care under this legislation.

Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate earlier this year.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Introduces Bill to Improve Access to Hospice Care in Rural Communities

Walorski Introduces Bill to Improve Access to Hospice Care in Rural Communities

Bipartisan Rural Access to Hospice Act Would Ensure Patients in Rural Areas Can Choose Own Doctor for Hospice Care

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help ensure Hoosier seniors and their families have access to hospice care in rural communities. The Rural Access to Hospice Act would fix a technical glitch in Medicare law that prevents many patients in rural communities from receiving hospice care from their local primary care provider.

“For Americans in rural communities and other underserved areas, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Centers play a critical role in providing access to affordable, quality health care,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These patients shouldn’t lose the doctor they know and trust when they enter hospice care simply because of where they live. The bipartisan Rural Access to Hospice Act will fix a technical glitch to ensure seniors can access hospice care and choose their own doctor as the attending physician.”

BACKGROUND

When Medicare patients enroll in hospice, they select a physician or nurse practitioner to serve as attending physician. Unlike other services, rural health clinics (RHCs) and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) cannot bill Medicare for hospice services, which prevents some patients from receiving care from their local provider. The Rural Access to Hospice Act would fix this glitch and allow RHCs and FQHCs to receive payment for hospice care.

The bill was introduced with Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.).

The full text of the Rural Access to Hospice Act is available here.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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Walorski Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties

Walorski Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties

WASHINGTON – With a growing number of Americans aging into Medicare, U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) recently introduced a bipartisan bill to simplify complex Medicare enrollment rules. The Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (H.R. 2477) would eliminate needless gaps in health care coverage and help prevent lifetime, late-enrollment penalties.

“As more and more Americans reach Medicare age, we need to simplify the Part B enrollment process and improve education and outreach to seniors,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These bipartisan reforms will protect seniors from unnecessary late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage, and unexpected health care bills.”

“For too many seniors, enrolling in Medicare Part B is a confusing process that can lead to expensive penalties and higher health care costs,” Congressman Ruiz said. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan BENES Act to ensure older Americans understand the Medicare Part B program, helping them avoid higher premiums or gaps in their health care coverage. This critical legislation will prevent older Americans from falling through the cracks and not getting the health care that they need. As a physician, I will continue to fight for our seniors’ access to quality, affordable health care they have earned and deserve.”

“With more than 10,000 Americans turning age 65 every day and becoming eligible for Medicare, we need to simplify and improve the enrollment process. The BENES Act would inform people new to Medicare about their responsibilities, helping to prevent costly penalties and eliminate gaps in coverage,” Senator Casey said. “By working in a bipartisan, commonsense fashion we can keep more dollars in seniors’ pockets and ensure they receive the care they need when they need it.”

“Seniors who miss the sign-up deadline for Medicare Part B face onerous penalties that persist for the rest of their lives. The BENES Act will make the sign-up process more efficient and friendly to our seniors so they have the financial backstop needed to access quality medical care,” Senator Young said.

BACKGROUND

Today, nearly 760,000 Americans are paying these penalties, increasing their Medicare Part B premiums by an average of almost 30 percent.

The BENES Act would direct the federal government to provide advance notice to individuals approaching Medicare eligibility about basic Medicare enrollment rules, filling a long-standing gap in education for older adults and people with disabilities. The bill would also eliminate needless multi-month coverage gaps in Medicare enrollment periods and align Medicare Part B enrollment periods with those in private Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans.

The BENES Act is supported by more than 85 organizations, including AARP, AHIP, BlueCross BlueShield Association and Medicare Rights Center.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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