September 27,2017

Wyden Senate Floor Remarks on the Passage of the CHRONIC Care Act

As Prepared for Delivery

M. President, the past 24 hours has seen a milestone in the ongoing effort to update and strengthen Medicare’s guarantee to seniors. Senate passage of the Finance Committee’s chronic care bill means seniors with multiple chronic illnesses will have their individual needs better met and get the type of care they need earlier.

It’s my judgment that the Finance Committee has no job more significant than updating the Medicare guarantee, and that’s exactly what the bill the Senate passed is all about. The CHRONIC Care Act begins a transformational change in the way Medicare works for seniors who suffer from chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you could bring the lawmakers responsible for the creation of Medicare into 2017, they would barely recognize the program they created more than half a century ago. Back then, if a senior needed surgery for a broken hip, he or she visited a hospital and used Medicare Part A. If a senior needed treatment for a nasty bout of the flu, he or she visited their doctor and used Part B.

Today, more than 90 percent of the Medicare dollar goes toward seniors who have two or more chronic conditions. And today’s seniors get their care in a variety of ways. It’s not just fee-for-service; there are Medicare Advantage, Accountable Care Organizations, and other new systems under development.

Keeping up with those changes – updating the Medicare guarantee – is a big policymaking challenge, and that’s what why the Finance Committee worked so hard, for so long, to get this bill across the finish line. There are still more steps before these policies reach the president’s desk, but with strong bipartisan backing of the entire United States Senate I’m confident the job will get done.

The CHRONIC Care Act will mean more care at home and less in institutions. It’ll expand the use of life-saving technology. It places a stronger focus on primary care. It gives seniors, however they get Medicare, more tools and options to receive care specifically targeted to address their chronic illnesses and keep them healthy. Those are all important steps forward in updating the Medicare guarantee. Still to come is ensuring that every senior with multiple chronic conditions has an advocate to help them navigate through the Byzantine health care system.

Finally just a few points about the bipartisan process leading to this bill’s passage today. The Finance Committee, in my view, has handed the Congress a model for how to legislate on a bipartisan basis. I want to thank Chairman Hatch with whom I formed a bipartisan chronic care working group almost exactly two years ago, and I want to thank Senators Warner and Isakson who generously took on the challenge of leading it.

And of course this bill wouldn’t have materialized at all if not for the sweat equity put in by staff. Somewhere amid all the endless hours of work that went into writing this bill, they found time for multiple weddings, the birth of three children, and a handful of job changes. So with that, thank you to Karen Fisher, Hannah Hawkins, Kelsey Avery, Leigh Stuckhardt, Liz Jurinka, Beth Vrabel and Matt Kazan – our chronic care lead, all on my team. Chairman Hatch, thank you to your commitment to keep working on this, and to your staff including Jay Khosla, Brett Baker, Jen Kuskowski, Katie Meyer-Simeon, and the chronic care lead, Erin Dempsey. And thank you also to Senators Warner and Isakson for lending us Marvin Figueroa and Jordan Bartolomeo.