Health Care Reform

Senator Burris Works with Freshman Collegues to Improve Health Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 8, 2009.  Senator Roland W. Burris today joined ten of his fellow freshman Democratic Senators to introduce an amendment package designed to increase efforts to promote innovation in the U.S. health care system and lower costs for millions of consumers.

For the sixth time since Labor Day, this group of freshman Democratic Senators have assembled to deliver back-to-back Senate floor speeches on the need for health reform. The eleven Democratic freshmen involved in drafting this package include Sens. Mark Begich (AL), Michael Bennet (CO), Roland Burris (IL), Kay Hagan (NC), Ted Kauffman (DE), Paul Kirk (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (NM), Tom Udall (CO) and Mark Warner (VA).

The amendments — which have been endorsed by some of the nation’s top corporate executives and leading private-sector advocates of health reform — will establish public-private provisions to better coordinate changes across medicine, prevent fraud, and make Medicare a leader in overall health reform by speeding the move toward a higher-value, lower-cost model for the future.

“The health reform legislation currently being considered is the smartest piece of policy this country has seen in decades.  Amendments to the current bill will  help to further the pending legislation, making our health care system better, more studied and more innovative.’ said Senator Burris. “In order to fix this deeply broken system, we must restore competition and accountability to the insurance market and make health care more affordable for consumers, and that is exactly what we expect this legislation will do. The passage of this bill is critical to providing better quality, more innovative and lower cost health care to all Americans.”

Below is a summary of the specific amendments.


Working More Closely with the Private Sector on Cost Containment

Transforming payment systems and improving quality will require that the public and private sectors move forward together on the shared goals of cost containment, improved quality, and delivery system reform.

CMS Innovation Center:  We give the new Innovation Center explicit authority to work with private plans to align Medicare, Medicaid and private sector strategies for improving care.
Independent Medicare Advisory Board:  We broaden the scope of the new Independent Medicare Advisory Board to look at total health system spending and make nonbinding, system-wide recommendations.
Quality and Value in Private Insurance:  We require health plans in the exchange to share information on health plan quality and cost to empower consumers to make better informed decisions.

Stepping-up the Commitment to Reduce Regulatory Barriers and Fight Fraud

These amendments require the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to aggressively pursue streamlined regulations and anti-fraud initiatives to ensure that all sectors of the health care system work together to improve value.

Administrative Simplification:  We require HHS to develop standards that will allow efficient electronic exchange and streamlining of information among patients, providers and insurers. 
Health Care Fraud Enforcement:  We direct HHS to better utilize technology to prevent health care fraud. 
Eliminating Legal Barriers to Care Improvement:  We authorize the U.S. Government Accountability Office to study current laws and regulations to identify barriers to implementing innovative delivery system reforms.

Aggressive Moves Toward Delivery System Reform

These amendments allow HHS to experiment with promising new models to further lower costs, increase quality and improve patient health.

Value-Based Purchasing: We require Medicare to implement pay-for-performance for more providers sooner, adding hospices, ambulatory surgical centers, psychiatric hospitals and others.
Broader Payment Innovation:  We allow a broader, more flexible transition to new payment models for Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).
Medicare System Upgrades:  We require HHS to modernize data systems so that valuable Medicare data can be shared in a reliable, complete, and timely manner. 
Good Quality Everywhere:  We promote greater access to tele-health services, strengthen the provider workforce and the availability of high-quality hospital services to bolster health care access for Americans in underserved and rural regions.