New Bill Could Expand Home Health Telemedicine

A bipartisan bill that would expand telemedicine services and remote patient monitoring (RPM) through Medicare is making headway in Congress with a projected cost savings of $1.8 billion over the next decade. The legislation could also help cut down the 7.88 billion miles home care workers traveled in 2013 for patient visits.

With the goal of improving quality care and cost savings, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act will expand the use of telecommunications technologies to deliver health care, health information or health education over a distance. The bill is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate and was introduced February 3.

“Telehealth is the future of health care,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a prepared statement. “It saves us money and improves health outcomes. Our bipartisan bill puts us on a path to transform health care delivery, making it less costly and more convenient for patients and providers.”

Roughly 50 health care and aging industry groups and associations have endorsed the bill, including the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).

“Telehealth and remote monitoring are important for achieving the goals of value-based care, providing more access to primary care and behavioral health, improving chronic care management and advancing patient engagement,” NAHC and other organizations wrote in a letter of support for the legislation.

The bill would also eliminate many of the current limitations on telehealth use, such as provider site restrictions, geographic limitations and restrictions on which providers can offer these services.

“Connecting people through medical professionals through telehealth and remote patient monitoring provides quality and timely care, helps seniors manage their health, and delivers cost savings,” said Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in a statement.

The provisions of the bill would open up alternative payment models for use of telehealth for certain patients with chronic conditions. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring services would become basic benefits in Medicare Advantage.

The provisions of the bill include creating a bridge program that would help providers transition to the goals of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

The bill’s three major provisions are projected to save $1.8 billion in Medicare costs over the next decade, according to an initial analysis by health care consulting firm Avalere Health.

Written by Amy Baxter