Telemedicine Legislation Introduced
On February 3, 2016, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MI), Thad Cochran (R-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers. Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Gregg Harper (R-MS) introduced companion legislation in the House.
A press release from Thune’s office comments that studies show telehealth and remote patient monitoring both improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing hospitalizations. According to the release, the CONNECT for Health Act is a bipartisan approach to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring through Medicare. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Create a program to help providers meet the goals of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) through the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM);
- Expand the use of RPM for certain patients with chronic conditions;
- Increase telehealth and RPM services in community health centers and rural health clinics; and
- Make telehealth and RPM basic benefits in Medicare Advantage.
“Greater use of technology to connect patients and doctors will benefit both with better outcomes, as well as more timely and efficient use of resources,” said Cardin. “I’ve seen firsthand the positive value of telehealth and remote monitoring in Maryland that connects ICU patients with critical care staff based at larger medical centers. We have the technology today to promote the delivery of high quality care in an efficient and cost-effective way around the country. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this strong bipartisan effort to expand telehealth and remote patient monitoring services.”
“Telehealth is the future of health care. It saves money and improves health outcomes,” said 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.”
Still, Schatz acknowledged that while the bill “makes perfect sense” and “has a pretty good chance of being enacted,” he stated that we don’t know when that might happen. Efforts to address telemedicine and telehealth have struggled in the past. However, a recent blog post from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on how to expand Medicare coverage for telemedicine helped lawmakers make progress on the legislation.