CONNECT for Health Act Reintroduced

Add one more bill to the steadily growing list of telehealth-related legislation that’s been introduced since the 115th Congress convened in January. As Healthcare Informatics and others first reported, a bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, which is aimed at improving outcomes for Medicare patients. Said lead sponsor Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) in a statement, “Telehealth is the future of health care. It expands access to care, lowers costs, and helps more people stay healthy.” To that end, “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the health care system for both patients and health care providers.”

The legislation, spearheaded by Sen. Schatz along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), would seek to expand the use of telehealth and remote monitoring among Medicare beneficiaries, which they emphasize has been shown to reduce costs. First introduced in the previous Congress, the CONNECT for Health Act would remove a number of current Medicare restrictions on telehealth and remote monitoring services, including originating site restrictions, geographic restrictions, and other limitations. It would also create a specific remote monitoring benefit for “certain high-risk/high-cost patients,” and would allow for the expansion of telemental health services. Portions of the bill are very similar, Sen. Schatz’s office noted in a summary of the legislation, to the recently introduced CHRONIC Care Act, which would also eliminate some of the current Medicare telehealth restrictions, with the goal of increasing utilization among chronic disease patients.

A diverse group of industry stakeholders have already offered their endorsement of the legislation, including the American Telehealth Association (ATA), ACT (the App Association), and the Connected Health Initiative. As we’ve noted before, this Congress has been a busy one for telehealth advocates, with a number of bipartisan bills (notable in such a partisan environment) having been rolled out. April saw the introduction of the CHRONIC Care Act, and, at the end of March, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) 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. 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 telestroke care, has drawn bipartisan support on both sides of the Capitol.

Click here for the article from Healthcare Informatics on the bill introduction.

Click here for a summary of the legislation from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

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