From his seat on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., was able to advance through the committee a proposal to fund the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which helps with Medicare and insurance questions and problems, for another three years.
As part of a large Medicare bill, on Wednesday the House Ways and Means Committee included the “Enhancing Consumer Assistance for Medicare Beneficiaries Act” from Buchanan, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.
“Our community is home to many of these sites that offer critical information and counseling services to Medicare beneficiaries and their families,” Buchanan said after getting the proposal rolled into the larger bill. “Many seniors in Florida struggle to navigate the complex bureaucracy of Medicare. My bipartisan bill will help ensure seniors get the answers they need.”
The proposal was included in the “Beneficiary Education Tools Telehealth Extender Reauthorization (BETTER) Act” from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the committee, and U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex., the top Republican on it.
“In addition to lowering costs, we on the Ways and Means Committee want to remove complexity and improve the quality of care for Medicare enrollees across the country,” said Neal when he showed his bill at the start of the week. “This bill supports resources that reduce confusion in the Medicare enrollment process, making it easier for Americans to choose the correct plans and meet important deadlines, to help avoid lifetime late enrollment penalties.
"Our proposal also helps care providers like skilled nursing facilities and hospitals improve their services for beneficiaries," Neal continued. "kBy expanding telehealth benefits, the legislation addresses Medicare beneficiaries’ need for more accessible mental health services. These sorts of advancements are possible when members of Congress work in a bipartisan way, and I’m grateful for Ranking Member Brady’s partnership on this legislation.”
“It is critical our seniors always have access to quality and affordable care,” said Brady. “By extending these Medicare provisions and increasing access to services that our patients need, this legislation will take important steps to ensuring those in our Medicare program are protected. I want to thank Chairman Neal for his work on this important bill, and I look forward to continuing our work together to increase access, lower costs for patients across the country, and bring this package to the floor with responsible, bipartisan pay-fors.”
The bill extends the National Quality Forum and State Health Insurance Programs; adds funds for more counselors working on Medicare enrollment and outreach; supports more physician training in rural and community hospitals; and expands Medicare telehealth benefits.