U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, announced that several of his long-championed provisions became law today as part of the health care reform bill:
* The Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S. 301), a bipartisan policy that requires disclosure of gifts and payments given to doctors from the pharmaceutical, biologic, and medical device industries. For over two years, Kohl has been investigating the nature of financial relationships between doctors and industry. This provision will work to expose conflicts of interest that arise when physicians receive financial benefits from drug and device makers.
* The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act (S. 647), a bipartisan policy that provides consumers with more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care, offers the government better tools for enforcing high quality standards, and encourages homes to improve on their own. 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.
* Medicare Payment Improvement Act of 2009 (S.1249), a bill that will reform the Medicare physician reimbursement so that it rewards health care providers based on the quality of care they provide. Under this proposal, states like Wisconsin that achieve higher quality-to-cost ratios will receive an increased reimbursement from Medicare. This proposal will help address the problem of geographic variations and reward high-quality providers, such as those in Wisconsin.
* The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 631), a policy that prevents those with violent or criminal histories from working with vulnerable elders in long-term care settings through the creation of a comprehensive nationwide system of background checks. This bill will expand a highly successful three-year pilot program instituted in seven states that kept more than 9,500 serial predators out of the long-term care workforce.
* Key provisions from the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act (S. 245), which will to help expand, train, and support the health care workforce focused on older adults.
* Several provisions to protect policyholders, business, and taxpayers from Health Care Fraud and Abuse, including new tools for Justice Department prosecutors, stronger protections from fraud for small businesses that offer employee health coverage, and improved methods for identifying and preventing fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid and private health plans.
* The Home and Community Balanced Incentives Act (S. 1256), which will provide states with financial incentives and more flexible plan options for restructuring their Medicaid programs in order to provide an increasing number of beneficiaries with cost-effective home and community-based (HCBS) services.