Telehealth and Preventive Care? New Bill Could Open the Door

It’s been well documented that a small percentage of patients account for a disproportionate amount of the spending on health care in the United States. The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, for example, estimates that care for patients with chronic diseases like heart disease, COPD, and diabetes “accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s aggregate health care spending,” with 45 percent of Americans having one or more chronic condition. These statistics, of course, underscore the importance of making investments in prevention. But could a new bill help open the door to the increased use of telehealth in preventive care initiatives? As mHealth Intelligence first reported, some telehealth experts believe that a bill designed to change the way in which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “scores” preventive health-related legislation could ultimately benefit telehealth programs. “Proponents believe that passage would allow the CBO to more accurately measure the financial savings associated with any legislation that is intended to broaden access by Medicare beneficiaries to telehealth services,” James Tam and Charles Dunham IV, of law firm Epstein Becker Green, write in a National Law Review blog post.

The legislation, entitled the Preventive Health Savings Act, “would allow the CBO to review the budget savings for preventive health services extending into an additional two decades beyond the traditional 10-year budget window beyond legislation,” Tan and Dunham explain. It would also require the CBO to take into account scientific research studies when making their determinations. Nearly identical versions of the legislation have been introduced in the House and in the Senate, in both cases with bipartisan support. Tam and Dunham argue that it would “would require CBO to more accurately measure the benefits of preventive care,” which often takes years to translate into cost savings. This includes telehealth programs, which “are well suited to be used as tools that connect patients to their health care providers in order to prevent diseases from occurring or to help maintain health conditions in order to prevent existing conditions from worsening,” but which often don’t show cost savings in the short term. Currently, the legislation is in committee in both the House and the Senate.

As we’ve previously reported, the 115th Congress has been a particularly productive one when it comes to telehealth-related bills. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act, which would remove restrictions on the practice of telehealth across state lines by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) providers; the two chambers now must reconcile their bills. In September, the Senate unanimously passed the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act, which 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. Also in September, two additional bills—the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act and the Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare Act—cleared their respective committees of jurisdiction, and will now come before the full House for votes. While the timing of those floor votes is unclear, the committee passage served as welcome news to telehealth advocates.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on telehealth and the preventive care legislation.

Click here to read the National Law Review blog post on telehealth and the preventive care legislation.


Leave a Reply