March 01,2004

Sen. Baucus Applauds MedPAC Report, Plans to Introduce Legislation Based on Findings

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Max Baucus today applauded the report released by theMedicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and stated that he will be introducinglegislation shortly to address some of the findings. Baucus especially highlighted theCommission’s recognition that ensuring Medicare beneficiaries’ access to high quality healthcare is an important priority.

In the last few years, the Institute of Medicine has released reports highlighting some ofthe hurdles in the areas of quality and patient safety that must be overcome. Recently, one studyshowed that patients receive recommended care only about 50 percent of the time. Anotherstudy showed that when patients are injured during hospitalization due to poor quality care, theresults are longer hospital stays, more expensive care, and higher risk of mortality. And theNational Healthcare Quality Report released by the Agency for Health Care Research andQuality in December 2003 showed that while quality is improving in some areas of our healthcare system, it is actually worsening in others.

"As a country with one of the most advanced systems of health care in the world, thislevel of quality is very concerning and unacceptable," Baucus said. "As the largest singlepurchaser of health care in the nation, Medicare should take a leading role to promote highquality care and I'm pleased that MedPAC agrees. We must work together in Congress toincrease quality of health care across the board."

As the MedPAC report explains, Medicare payment politcies are currently neutral oreven negative towards health care quality. The legislation Baucus will soon introduce willrespond to MedPAC’s recommendations and will establish quality incentive payment policies forthe Medicare managed care program and for outpatient dialysis services. Baucus has specificallyfocused on these areas because Medicare managed care and dialysis are two areas in whichmeasures of quality have been agreed upon and are regularly collected.

Baucus's legislation will also include more research and demonstration projects toexamine ways of measuring and paying for quality that can work for both urban and ruralhospital settings.

"I'm eager to move forward to reward and encourage high quality care in the Medicareprogram -- it's one of the best ways to ensure that patients are getting the care they deserve,"Baucus said. "We need more research and demonstration projects to explore what will work forhospitals, but I am proud to start the ball rolling with my proposal for Medicare managed careand dialysis services. I look forward to moving this proposal through Congress so we canachieve a higher standard of care for all Americans."