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Transitional care could save billions of dollars each year by preventing unnecessary re-hospitalizations

 (Washington, DC) - U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today applauded the inclusion of key provisions of the Medicare Transitional Care Act, which will reduce preventable hospital readmissions, in the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill. In June, Shaheen and Collins introduced the Medicare Transitional Care Act to reduce costly hospital readmissions for Medicare patients. The Finance Committee bill establishes a three-year Medicare pilot program to integrate transitional care services at eligible hospitals. This would help ensure that appropriate follow-up care is provided for seniors who are discharged from a hospital and prevent unnecessary and costly re-hospitalization.  The bill will now be considered by the full Finance Committee during a mark-up next week.

"Health care costs are too high for families, businesses and the economy, and we must find ways to keep what works in our system and fix what doesn't," said Shaheen. "Senator Collins and I have worked together to improve the care our seniors receive while saving our nation billions of dollars each year. I applaud the Senate Finance Committee for including transitional care services in the first draft of the bill, and I urge them to keep the measure in the final bill."

"Addressing growing health care costs must be at the center of any health care reform legislation," said Collins.  "Our legislation would help make the transition from hospital to home easier, particularly for older individuals with multiple chronic conditions.  At the same time, it would save Medicare money by preventing costly and unnecessary hospital readmissions."

A New England Journal of Medicine study conducted earlier this year found that almost one-third of Medicare patients who were discharged from a hospital were re-hospitalized within 90 days largely due to lack of follow-up care, unnecessarily driving-up health care costs. 

"The inclusion of a transitional care benefit for Medicare beneficiaries in the Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform proposal is an important step toward assuring better health outcomes for those with chronic conditions," said Susan M. Young, executive director of the Home Care Association of New Hampshire.  "We believe this benefit will offer patients the kind of care coordination and support that that will help them avoid a return to the hospital.  While many patients receive such care now through the home health benefit, many others do not meet the criteria for homecare because they aren't homebound."

Research also shows that the transition from the hospital to the patient's next place of care (home, nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, etc.) can be complicated and involves health risk. Older patients, particularly those with multiple chronic conditions, often admit difficulty remembering instructions, confusion over correct use of medications, and general uncertainty about their condition.  Transitional care services would provide these patients the support and assistance they need to manage their health needs with their caregivers.

The legislation would also create significant cost savings. Medicare spent an estimated $17.4 billion in 2004 on unplanned re-hospitalizations. Experts estimated the Medicare Transitional Care Act could save up to $5,000 per Medicare beneficiary.

The Medicare Transitional Care Act, an evidence-based model, provides for a qualified transitional care clinician who would ensure that appropriate follow-up care is provided during the vulnerable time after discharge from a hospital.  Services provided may include instructions for patients and caregivers on how and when to take or administer medication; help scheduling and getting to follow-up appointments with doctors; and help coordinating support services, such as meal delivery, transportation, and assistance with other daily activities.

The Medicare Transitional Care Act was co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Mark Warner (D-VA).  The legislation has also been endorsed by AARP. Once the Senate Finance Committee considers the bill, it will then be combined with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill. The combined bill will then be considered by the full Senate.