Press Releases

DelBene, Whitehouse, Barrasso, Kilmer, Smith, Gallagher, Introduce Legislation to Expand Access to Coordinated Health Care

Legislation would improve access to care by expanding Accountable Care Organizations to include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Adrian Smith (NE-03), Mike Gallagher (WI-08), and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and John Barrasso (WY) introduced the ACO Assignment Improvement Act, which would expand Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists. 

“Providers should be compensated based on the quality of the care they deliver and whether their patients actually get better, instead of the quantity of services provided. Unfortunately, our current fee-for-service system in Medicare still incentivizes quantity over quality in too many cases. If we want to reach our goal of getting all Medicare patients into accountable care organizations by 2030, we need to get serious and enact policies like the ACO Assignment Improvement Act to improve care for those in rural and underserved areas,” said DelBene. 

“Rhode Island’s accountable care organizations have led the way, improving patient care and lowering costs for seniors,” said Whitehouse. “Our bipartisan legislation would encourage further innovation in health care by removing red tape for patients while delivering coordinated higher quality care to more Medicare beneficiaries.” 

“As a doctor from a frontier state, I know how important access to quality health care is for patients no matter where they live,” said Barrasso. “Health care providers in rural areas work hard to ensure our communities receive the care they deserve. Our bipartisan bill will give these providers the support they need to continue that mission. Expanding Accountable Care Organizations to include more providers will keep health care costs low and efficiency high for rural communities in Wyoming and across the country.”   

“No matter where you live, you ought to be able to go to a health care provider,” said Kilmer. “Congress needs to step up and create more options for rural Americans to access value-based, coordinated care so that everyone can get medical care close to home and stay healthy without breaking the bank. The ACO Assignment Improvement Act will do that, and it also rewards health care providers focused on improving the quality of care and putting their patients first.” 

“Americans in rural areas such as Nebraska’s Third District depend on physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists, as well as doctors, to provide essential primary care,” said Smith. “The ACO Assignment Improvement Act will afford those serving these rural patients more opportunities to continue providing high quality, coordinated care by removing barriers to participation in Medicare Accountable Care Organizations.” 

“Individuals who live in rural areas should not be disadvantaged from receiving affordable, high-quality healthcare. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense way to get Medicare patients in Northeast Wisconsin better care at a better price by lowering burdens and increasing access to higher quality care organizations,” said Gallagher. 

ACOs are groups of hospitals, doctors, and health care providers that join together to coordinate care for a certain region. They saved the Medicare program approximately $1.8 billion in 2022, the sixth consecutive year of net savings, by delivering high-quality, coordinated patient care, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries who want to participate meet with a primary care physician, who will assign them to an ACO. The ACO Assignment Improvement Act will respect the longstanding relationships patients have with their primary care providers and allow for ACO assignment based on primary care visits with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and clinical nurse specialists.