Skip to content

February 11, 2020

King Introduces Prevention-Based Legislation Empowering Medicare Beneficiaries to Stay Healthy

More than 18 percent of the nation’s population relies on Medicare for healthcare coverage, but preventive opportunities not maximized

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced that he has introduced legislation that would improve Medicare’s efforts to support preventive healthcare, encouraging seniors and their physicians to work together and confront health issues before they become more serious. The Wellness and Education for Longer Lives (WELL) for Seniors Act would improve the Annual Wellness Visit – a medical appointment currently covered by Medicare free of cost – by incorporating more screenings to identify potential risk factors for serious illnesses or injuries associated with social determinants of health. Senator King’s legislation would also improve awareness among Medicare recipients, as only 16 percent of eligible Medicare beneficiaries currently utilize the annual wellness visit. The United States spends over $3.3 trillion each year on healthcare, and avoidable chronic diseases account for 75 percent of this spending, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“If we want to improve our public health and reduce our healthcare spending, we need to address potential health problems before they get serious – but right now, our healthcare system isn’t set up to proactively address health risks,” said Senator King. “We can change that, and choose to emphasize care that would prevent avoidable injuries and diseases rather than treat them after they’ve already struck. Right now, we’re being penny-wise, pound-foolish – by enacting this law, we can take a much-needed step to rein in Medicare costs and support the health of our seniors.”

Senator King’s bill works to improve annual wellness visits for Medicare beneficiaries by:

  • Adding screenings for social determinants of health, including nutrition, mobility, food security, housing security, transportation access, and social support for the patient.
  • Improving the current screenings for balance in order to better identify patients at increased risk for falls and offering referral for treatment if appropriate.
  • Offer incentive payments for healthcare providers that include the new screenings in a senior’s annual wellness visit.
  • Require that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary conduct education and outreach activities regarding the coverage of Annual Wellness Visits under the Medicare program.

Senator King is a champion for prevention policies across the board – including advocating for the benefits and financial benefits of proactive and preventive healthcare.  In October, he hosted a prevention-focused panel discussion in Bangor with local healthcare providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. In November, Senator King introduced the Primary Care Patient Protection Act to allow consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHP) to be covered for two yearly visits to primary care physicians. In May 2019, Senator King introduced the Preventive Health Savings Act, which would direct the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to more accurately reflect the cost-savings of preventive healthcare, including health screenings.

In March 2019, Senator King introduced the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which incentivizes healthier living by allowing Americans to use a portion of the money saved in their pre-tax health savings accounts toward qualified sports and fitness purchases such as gym memberships. Also in March, he introduced legislation to help seniors and individuals with disabilities navigate the complex web of federal home modification programs; by investing in small changes like grab bars in the shower or a ramp in place of stairs, these Americans can reduce the risk of a serious fall that brings major expenses for both the individual and the Medicare and Medicaid systems.

Next Article » « Previous Article