DARIEN, IL – A sleep apnea screening bill was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, MD, R–Texas. The bipartisan legislation, H.R. 4695, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., and endorsed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, would add screening for obstructive sleep apnea to the initial preventive physical examination covered under the Medicare program.
“Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic disease that is common among older adults and damaging to their health,” said AASM President Dr. M. Safwan Badr. “The American Academy of Sleep Medicine commends Rep. Burgess and Rep. Rush for sponsoring this important legislation and urges the U.S. Congress to pass the bill, which will enhance the patient-centered health care provided to seniors when they enter the Medicare program.”
H.R. 4695 proposes that an appropriate screening questionnaire be used during the introductory “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit to identify new Medicare beneficiaries who have a high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. The bill would apply to initial preventive physical examinations performed on or after Jan. 1, 2016.
“A sleep apnea screening questionnaire is a simple, validated and cost-effective tool that can be used to identify Medicare patients who are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea,” said Burgess, a doctor who founded and currently serves as co-chair of the Congressional Health Caucus. “Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is essential for effective chronic disease management among seniors.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every five Americans will be aged 65 or older by 2030. It is anticipated that by 2050 there will be 89 million older adults in the U.S., more than double the number in 2010.
“The proportion of older adults in the U.S. is increasing rapidly,” said Rush. “Screening for sleep apnea is a practical way to promote the health and well-being of our growing population of seniors.”
The AASM initiated the legislation as part of its Seniors Sleep campaign to increase preventive sleep care for individuals entering the Medicare program. After securing the support of Reps. Burgess and Rush, the AASM collaborated with their offices to develop the draft language for the bill. Now the AASM is working to secure additional co-sponsors of the bill and a legislative sponsor in the Senate.
At least 12-18 million Americans have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which increases their risk for costly medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. Untreated sleep apnea also fragments sleep and can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment, doubling the risk of falls in older adults and causing 100,000 vehicular crashes a year.
The most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is positive airway pressure therapy. In addition to restoring healthy sleep and improving daytime alertness, PAP therapy for sleep apnea is estimated to reduce the risk of motor vehicle collisions by 52 percent, the expected number of heart attacks by 49 percent, and the risk of stroke by 31 percent. Research also shows that PAP therapy is a cost-effective treatment that can reduce overall health care utilization.
Adopted in 2003, the Welcome to Medicare benefit allows new Medicare beneficiaries to receive an initial preventive physical examination and screening services without a copayment. Other services included in this benefit are cardiovascular screening blood tests, diabetes screening tests and an electrocardiogram.
The Medicare program provides health insurance for people 65 years of age and older, certain disabled people and people with kidney failure. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 51.78 million beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare as of July 1, 2012.
More information about the AASM Seniors Sleep campaign is available at www.aasmnet.org/seniorssleep.aspx.
About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) improves sleep health and promotes high quality patient centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards. With about 9,000 members, the AASM is the largest professional membership society for physicians, scientists and other health care providers dedicated to sleep medicine. For more information, visit www.aasm.org.