New Bill Would Broaden Medicare Reimbursement for Telemedicine

In a Congress that’s already been eventful (as we’ve often documented here) when it comes to the introduction of telemedicine-related legislation, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced yet another bill, this time seeking to expand Medicare reimbursement for health care services provided via telemedicine. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), along with his Telehealth Caucus co-chairs Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), this week reintroduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act (H.R. 3360). “Telehealth saves lives and reduces costs; it’s a win-win for both patients and providers,” Rep. Thompson, a longtime telehealth advocate, said earlier this year.

According to a summary of the legislation provided during the previous Congress (per Politico, none of the sponsors’ offices have responded yet to reporters’ questions about the reintroduction), when it was introduced for the second time, the Telehealth Enhancement Act would expand the list of eligible telehealth originating sites for Medicare reimbursement to include homes, urban critical access hospitals, and sole community hospitals, among other locations. While text of H.R. 3360 has not yet been released, the bill had previously earned the support of advocacy organizations like the American Telehealth Association (ATA), which in 2014 called its “provisions…critical to improve telehealth coverage and extend care to millions of Americans.”

The legislation’s introduction comes at a time when lawmakers and advocates are increasingly asserting that Medicare is holding telehealth back. Bolstering their case: the April Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that outdated Medicare reimbursement policies and other coverage limitations are standing in the way of wider utilization. To that end, of the numerous telehealth-related bills introduced during the 115th Congress, many specifically target Medicare restrictions. The bipartisan Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, for example, considered during a House hearing last week, would remove Medicare’s current geographic restrictions on reimbursement for telestroke services, which are limited to patients located in rural areas. Similarly, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act would remove a number of current Medicare restrictions on telehealth and remote monitoring services.

In other recent telehealth-related news from the Hill, as Politico and others first reported, the House this week passed H.R. 3178, the Medicare Part B Improvement Act, by voice vote. Among the legislation’s provisions: the addition of Medicare reimbursement for at-home telemedicine kidney dialysis treatments. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration. Politico noted that it could potentially be included as part of must-pass legislation, slated for a September vote, to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other programs.

Click here to read the article from mHealth Intelligence on the new telehealth legislation.

Click here to read the article from Politico on recent telehealth bills.

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