Help for People with Multiple Chronic Conditions
By Anand K. Parekh, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS
Today, more than two out of three people with Medicare have two or more chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. And a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than one in five Americans aged 45-64 had multiple chronic conditions. And the same report found that these Americans are less likely to get the medical care they need.
The health care law is tackling this problem head on. Millions of Americans are now eligible for preventive care such as flu shots, blood pressure and cholesterol tests, mammograms, and colonoscopies free of charge. This matters because people with multiple chronic conditions are at higher risk for hospitalizations, readmissions, adverse drug events, and even death.
In addition, millions of individuals with multiple chronic conditions will receive better care resulting in better health through CMS’s efforts to promote better care coordination throughout Medicare and Medicaid. CMS’s initiatives include the creation of new care models like Accountable Care Organizations that are responsible for the coordination of their patients’ care and promotion of electronic health records so that patients with multiple doctors can be confident that their doctors have the information they need. CMS has also launched initiatives through the Innovation Center such as the Health Care Innovations Awards program. The majority of the projects funded by this program focus on improving care for individuals with multiple chronic conditions through enhanced care coordination by a multidisciplinary workforce.
Third, in the past, many people with multiple chronic conditions have been locked out of the insurance market. But the new health care law created the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which has already provided health coverage to more than 75,000 people who were previously denied coverage because of their pre-existing conditions; many of them have multiple chronic conditions. In 2014, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal. 2014 will also mark the opening of the new Health Insurance Exchanges, where millions of Americans will be able to shop for health insurance and get tax credits to make insurance more affordable.
In total, implementation of the Affordable Care Act provides new and innovative ways to tackle the chronic disease epidemic, leading to improved health and quality of life.