Reorganizing Medicare for Older Adults with Chronic Illness

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A major challenge for the US health care system during coming years will be the financial viability and reorganization of Medicare—a program in which over 90% of family physicians participate. Although chronic illness constitutes a trajectory characterized by long-term patterns of health and functional states, fee-for-service Medicare is largely directed to the treatment of acute, episodic illness. Beyond the prescription drug benefit, there were several provisions in the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 that were designed to improve the quality of care and reduce costs for chronically ill beneficiaries, an important first step in the reorientation of Medicare to chronic illness care. Quality is the foundation of Medicare's movement to a chronic care program and paying physicians for quality care is on the horizon. Family physicians will need to be actively engaged in Medicare's reorientation by articulating and promoting a quality of care that effectively integrates evidence-based medicine with a person-centered focus.

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