MAJOR KOHL INITIATIVES INCLUDED IN SENATE FINANCE HEALTH REFORM BILL

Physician Payments Sunshine, Nursing Home Transparency & Improvement Bills Also Part of House Package


WASHINGTON - Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) reacted to the release of the Senate Finance Committee's health reform legislation, which includes several provisions he authored. The bill includes provisions from major initiatives Kohl has championed as chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, including the Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S. 301), the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act (S. 647), and the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act (S. 245). 
 
"It feels good that we're moving forward in the Senate, and I'm really pleased that so many provisions in the Senate Finance bill will improve health care and long-term care for seniors," said Kohl. "I'm particularly hopeful that provisions which transform the Medicare system to pay for value over volume remain in the final health reform bill."
 
Throughout the health care reform debate, Senator Kohl has consistently emphasized the importance of reigning in the rising costs of health care, while maintaining health care quality and expanding access. In conversations with both Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and President Barack Obama, Kohl argued for inclusion of much of the language that can be found on pages 76-81 in Title III, Subtitle A, Part I on Linking Payment to Quality Outcomes in the Medicare Program.
 
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which would require disclosure of gifts and payments given to doctors from the pharmaceutical, biologic, and medical device industries, can be found beginning on page 176 in Title IV on Transparency and Program Integrity.  The information will be registered in a national and publicly accessible online database.  Companies failing to report would incur financial penalties.  For over two years, Kohl has been investigating the nature of financial relationships between doctors and industry. Most recently the Aging Committee held a hearing on conflicts of interest in medical education. The Finance Committee's bill would also expand disclosure of payments to include academic medical centers.
 
The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act, a bill that would give consumers more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care, give the government better tools for enforcing high quality standards, and encourage homes to improve on their own, can be found beginning on page 178 in Title IV on Transparency and Program Integrity. AARP has called Kohl's bill, which would significantly raise the bar for standards of care in nursing homes for the first time since 1987, "one of the most significant nursing home reform initiatives" in two decades. 
 
A significant provision from the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act, which would establish a demonstration program to develop training content for personal and home care aides caring for older and disabled Americans, can be found beginning on page 108 in Title III, Subtitle A, Part IV on Strengthening Primary Care and Other Workforce Improvements. These professions are among the top three fastest-growing occupations. In spite of this, they are not subject to any federal requirements related to training and education, and state requirements vary widely. This provision will help to address the impending severe shortage of health care workers who are adequately trained and prepared to care for older Americans. Other provisions from this legislation were included in the HELP Committee's health reform legislation.
           
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