Six U.S. senators have introduced legislation seeking to remove barriers to the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring for Medicare beneficiaries.
Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the bipartisan Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017.
“Telehealth is the future of healthcare. It expands access to care, lowers costs and helps more people stay healthy,” said Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the healthcare system for both patients and healthcare providers.”
The CONNECT for Health Act builds on the provisions of another recently introduced Senate bill—the CHRONIC Care Act—which aims to improve health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic diseases by, among other provisions, expanding access to telehealth services.
For its part, the CONNECT for Health Act calls for:
- Expansion of telehealth in accountable care organizations and Medicare Advantage, as well as for home dialysis and telestroke services for purposes of evaluating acute stroke
- Broadening the use of remote patient monitoring for certain high-risk, high-cost patients
- Bolstering telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, Native American sites, and allowing global and bundled payments
- Establishing direct authority for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to lift existing restrictions on telehealth when certain quality and cost-effectiveness criteria are met
- Expanding the use of telemental health by giving the HHS secretary the authority to lift restrictions for some mental health services
The legislation has been endorsed by more than 50 organizations, including ACT|The App Association, American Telemedicine Association (ATA), College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
“The CONNECT for Health Act provides a carefully crafted approach to begin helping countless American Medicare recipients realize the benefits of connected health technology,” said Morgan Reed, executive director of The App Association. “By lifting arduous limitations on the use of telehealth and empowering Medicare physicians to utilize innovative remote monitoring technologies, responsible and secure connected health solutions may be introduced more broadly throughout the continuum of care to improve patient health outcomes.”
“Medicare beneficiaries deserve access to telehealth services already available within almost every other health program including Medicaid, Veterans Health, private insurance plans and most recently TRICARE,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the ATA. “This bill may be their best hope for this Congress.”
Likewise, HIMSS applauded the bill and pledged their support for its reforms.
“We believe the CONNECT for Health Act will modernize healthcare delivery for Medicare beneficiaries by removing barriers to the use of telehealth and other healthcare technologies such as remote patient monitoring, resulting in greater access to high-quality care, improved continuity of care and better value for patients and the Medicare program,” said HIMSS in a written statement.
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