House Bill Targets Medicare Telehealth Restrictions

In a Congress that’s already been busy when it comes to the introduction of telehealth-related bills, two House members have dropped yet another bipartisan bill—and like many of those introduced earlier in this legislative session, it’s specifically aimed at eliminating the restrictions that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) place on Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services. As MobiHealthNews first reported, House Energy & Commerce Committee members Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) recently introduced H.R. 3482, the Evidence-Based Telehealth Expansion Act. “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,” Rep. Johnson said in a joint press release. “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.” The introduction of this bill and others underscores the importance of the research-driven work that the CTeL-led Telehealth Reimbursement Coalition is doing to help the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan entity that assesses the potential fiscal impact of proposed legislation, understand why expanded reimbursement makes good financial sense.

The Evidence-Based Telehealth Expansion Act, according to a summary of the bill given by Rep. Matsui’s office, would authorize the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to, upon review, waive certain current restrictions on Medicare telehealth reimbursement. In order to do so, the Secretary would have to “ensure that the service delivered via telehealth would either reduce spending while maintaining quality or improve quality without increasing costs.” Said Rep. Matsui, who along with Rep. Johnson serves on the Energy & Commerce Telehealth Working Group, “This legislation helps ensure that we’re integrating telehealth into the health care 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.”

Like the newly reintroduced Telehealth Enhancement Act, the Johnson/Matsui 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 asserting 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 in July, 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.

Click here to read the article from MobiHealthNews on the new House legislation.

Click here to read the press release from Rep. Doris Matsui on the House Medicare telehealth legislation.

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