Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Expand Telehealth Reimbursement

These days, it may not appear that the two parties in Congress can agree on much. But telehealth has long been an area that has seen strong bipartisan support, and the recent introduction of a new bill aimed at expanded use of telehealth technologies shows that that bipartisan spirit appears to still be alive. As first reported by Healthcare Informatics and others, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) have introduced S. 787, the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, which would expand Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services by permitting eligible hospitals, through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), to test the increased use of telehealth care. It also encourages the industry to develop more cost-effective care delivery models.

The senators, who previously introduced the legislation during the 114th Congress, emphasized that both rural and urban communities alike would benefit from expanded reimbursement for telehealth care, particularly given that many patients have already been well served by the technologies when it comes to accessing specialty care. “Michigan seniors and families in rural and underserved communities are using telehealth technology to receive specialized and quality health care that otherwise would not be readily available,” Sen. Peters noted in a March 30 press release, adding also that the legislation could help “reduce costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations and readmissions.” For his part, Sen. Gardner is optimistic that the bill would “incentivize the healthcare industry to develop new technologies that could potentially reduce costs and improve patient health.” A number of Michigan health care leaders have already offered their endorsement of S. 787.

Notably, S. 787 is not the first piece of telehealth-related legislation introduced since the January start of the 115th Congress, though it is arguably the most comprehensive. In February, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) introduced versions of the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act in both chambers. The bill, which seeks to expand access to tele-stroke care, has drawn bipartisan support on both sides of the Capitol. Also this session, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) introduced legislation to fund telehealth pilot programs for those residing in public housing, though the bill has yet to garner cosponsors.

Click here for the article from Healthcare Informatics on the new telehealth legislation.

Click here for the press release from Sen. Gary Peters’ office. 

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