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August 22, 2017



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ICYMI: Legislators Introduce Bill to Expand Telemedicine Coverage, Approve Stark Measure and Military Trauma Legislation

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ICYMI: Legislators Introduce Bill to Expand Telemedicine Coverage, Approve Stark Measure and Military Trauma Legislation

On July 27, two members of the House Energy and Commerce telehealth working group introduced the Evidence-Based Telehealth Expansion Act of 2017, which would encourage the use of telemedicine in the Medicare program. Specifically, the bill, sponsored by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary power to waive Medicare restrictions on what telemedicine it covers if the service improves quality of care or reduces costs. Advocates are hoping the bill could be attached to legislation reauthorizing CHIP and certain Medicare programs set to expire at the end of September. Congress is expected to take up such a bill after its August recess. Bill text can be found here.

“This legislation would expand access to greatly needed telehealth services in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio,” said Rep. Johnson. “The bill Congresswoman Matsui and I have introduced aims to increase telehealth services through Medicare by removing some of the arbitrary barriers to access currently in place. Increasing access to telehealth isn’t a partisan issue; rather, it’s a service that has proven to be very beneficial to many rural Americans – and it should be expanded. Instead of placing restrictions on telehealth coverage through Medicare, we need to do the opposite and allow for more people the opportunity to utilize this emerging technology. The legislation we introduced today does just that.”

“We need to harness the power of technology to get care to people efficiently and empower them to manage their chronic conditions,” said Rep. Matsui. “This legislation helps ensure that we’re integrating telehealth into the healthcare system in a cost-effective and patient-centered way. I’m pleased to work with Congressman Johnson on this legislation as part of our overall efforts to expand access to telemedicine.”

Also before leaving for their August recess, the House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 3178, the Medicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017, by a voice vote, which included a technical but helpful change to the Stark law. Section 301 “Modernizing the Application of Stark Rule under Medicare” adds a definition of “written requirement,” modifies 1877(e) exceptions related to compensation arrangements, and adds a new section entitled “Holdover for Lease Arrangements and Personal Services Arrangements.” This last section would protect tenants whose lease has expired after the term of at least one year granted the payments are made.

Finally, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health passed by voice vote H.R. 880, the Military Injury Surgical Systems Integrated Operationally Nationwide to achieve ZERO Preventable Deaths (MISSION ZERO) Act. Authored in the House by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX), the bill establishes a grant program for military-civilian partnerships in trauma care that will allow both sectors to benefit from the others’ expertise and experience. The legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

“Acute care at trauma centers nationwide will greatly benefit from increased access to the highly qualified, can-do medical professionals in our military,” said Isakson, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Integrating our nation’s best trauma centers with military doctors who regularly operate in high-pressure situations will greatly benefit Americans.”