House Spending Measure Includes CHRONIC Care Act Provisions

Potential good news from Capitol Hill for telemedicine advocates: The House’s stopgap spending bill, which the chamber passed on Tuesday, includes the provisions of a key piece of telemedicine legislation. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, the continuing resolution would incorporate the provisions of the CHRONIC Care Act, which has earned the endorsement of a number of telemedicine advocacy groups, and other telemedicine-friendly bills. “For too long, Medicare has lagged behind other health payers in covering and reimbursing telehealth services,” Joel White, who serves as the director of the advocacy group Health IT Now, said in a statement praising the measure. “These reforms are the beginning of a much-needed shift that will pay dividends in better health care outcomes and reduced costs.”

The CHRONIC Care Act 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. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously back in September. It’s not the only piece of telemedicine legislation included in the stopgap spending measure, either; the bill also incorporates provisions of legislation designed to increase access to telemedicine services for Medicare dialysis patients, along with the Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare Act, which would make telehealth care a “basic benefit” for those enrolled in Medicare Advantage. In addition, the continuing resolution incorporates the provisions of bipartisan legislation that would give the HHS Secretary more flexibility in setting meaningful use standards.

As we’ve previously reported, the 115th Congress has been a particularly active one when it comes to telemedicine legislation. Along with the Senate’s CHRONIC Care Act passage, 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. The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the House’s stopgap spending measure, before both chambers turn their attention to a broader, two-year budget deal that Democrats and Republicans have been working to develop. Stay tuned for more details! (Bonus: Come to this June’s CTeL Spring Summit for an in-depth look at the progress of these and other bills, courtesy of CTeL’s policy research team! Learn more here.)

Click here to read the Fierce Healthcare article on the House spending legislation.

Click here to read the Health IT Now statement on the House spending legislation.

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