CHRONIC Care Act Passes the Senate

Telehealth advocates can point to their first (partial) legislative victory with the Senate passage of the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act. As mHealth IntelligenceMobiHealthNews, and others first reported, the bipartisan bill unanimously passed the upper chamber earlier this week. “The CHRONIC Care Act is a culmination of a bipartisan, committee-wide effort, which included rigorous engagement and feedback from affected stakeholders,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was the legislation’s lead sponsor, said in a statement following the vote. “The CHRONIC Care Act is one of the few bipartisan health care bills to pass the Senate this Congress, and I urge my colleagues in the House to act quickly on this legislation and get it to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”

As we noted when it was introduced, the bill is aimed at improving the quality of care for high-cost patients with chronic conditions who are enrolled in Medicare. It includes key telehealth provisions, such as additional telehealth benefits for Medicare Advantage patients, and the expansion of originating sites to include patient homes for telehealth consults among those receiving dialysis services. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) would also be able to expand the telehealth services that they offered to beneficiaries. Finally, the legislation would expand Medicare reimbursement for telestroke care, as it incorporates the provisions of the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act. While it is unclear when—or if—the House will vote on the legislation, advocacy groups have offered strong support, noting that it could benefit patients in underserved communities throughout the country. “To serve our urban and rural populations faced with challenges of getting to office appointments, telehealth technology can be a successful alternative to being there,” said Montefiore Health System’s Stephen Rosenthal at a May hearing on the CHRONIC Care Act.

The passage of the CHRONIC Care Act 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 Bolstering their case: the April Government Accountability Office (GAO) study asserting that outdated Medicare reimbursement policies and other coverage limitations are standing in the way of wider utilization.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. Among them: the Evidence-Based Telehealth Expansion Act, the Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare Act (which this past week received a favorable Congressional Budget Office score), and the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the passage of the CHRONIC Care Act. 

Click here to read the MobiHealthNews article on the passage of the CHRONIC Care Act

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