Legislation to Expand Medicare Telehealth Reimbursement Introduced
NAHC Expresses Support for the Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation
February 5, 2016 12:49 PM
On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, nine bipartisan members of Congress introduced legislation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would expand Medicare telehealth services and remote patient monitoring. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (S. 2484 / H.R. 2442) would lift Medicare’s restrictions on telehealth and provide new tools to make remote patient monitoring more accessible and affordable.
The Senate legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), and Mark Warner (D-VA). The House version was introduced by U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Gregg Harper (R-MS).
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) joined with other health care organizations on a letter of support for the legislation (available here). “On behalf of the Medicare beneficiaries, providers and plans we represent, we are writing to support the CONNECT for Health Act. Your bipartisan leadership will help bring telehealth and remote patient monitoring, valuable tools for managing care, to seniors in Medicare,” NAHC and the others said. “Telehealth and remote monitoring are important for achieving the goals of value-based care, providing more access to primary care and behavioral health, improving chronic care management and advancing patient engagement."
The legislation would do the following:
Lift Medicare’s outdated restrictions on the use of telehealth;
Ensure new payment models will include these tools, make these technologies part of Medicare Advantage, and address specific challenges related to stroke and home dialysis.
Provide resources for remote patient monitoring technology for patients with chronic conditions;
“Telehealth is the future of health care. It saves money and improves health outcomes,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill puts us on a path to transform health care delivery, making it less costly and more convenient for patients and providers.”
“Medical innovation and technology is at the forefront of today’s health care system, and it is vital that the Medicare program embrace these advances to ensure quality, affordable care remains available to our nation’s seniors,” said Representative Diane Black.
At a press conference on February 3, Senator Warner predicted the legislation might have the potential to gain traction in Congress this year. “I know this an election year and there is a general consensus that we are not supposed to get stuff done,” Senator Warner said. “At least on the question of telehealth, we are going to prove them wrong.”
In December 2015, NAHC held a press conference on the total mileage traveled by home care and hospice nurses each year, and discussed the importance of establishing a unified federal reimbursement for telehealth under Medicare. The lack of a unified federal reimbursement for telehealth under Medicare is creating barriers to more widespread adoption of telehomecare services and its expansion to vulnerable patient populations that are served by home health agencies. For more information about the press conference, please see previous NAHC Report article here.
A summary of the legislation is available here.