fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

FAH Supports Bipartisan, Bicameral Telehealth Bills

April 29, 2016 | FAH Policy Blog Team

Category: FAH News, Health Care Delivery, HIT

The recent advancements in medical technology have greatly expanded the opportunities for patients to receive care in settings that are convenient to them, responsive to individual need and reduce cost.  Unfortunately, federal regulation and payment policy regarding telehealth hasn’t kept pace with these advances, hampering its expansion and denying patient access.  Fortunately, there is a bipartisan effort underway in Congress to begin addressing these deficiencies. The Federation of American Hospitals is pleased to endorse the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (H.R. 4442/S. 2484).  Bipartisan, bicameral legislation which will expand telemedicine services through the Medicare Program.

FAH President and CEO Chip Kahn sent a letters to the lead authors of the legislation in the House and Senate, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), expressing support for increasing access to telemedicine and explaining why it is so important for patients and the people who care for them.

“Improvements in telemedicine and remote monitoring technology allows for the delivery of more efficient, timely care at a lower cost to many beneficiaries, as well as providers, especially when patients may be homebound or live a far distance from the essential providers of care,” Kahn wrote. “Thank you for your leadership and commitment to improving access to telemedicine services for Medicare beneficiaries.”

The CONNECT for health Act expands the use of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring by:

  • Allowing for the reimbursement for care management to providers eligible under the merit-based incentive program
  • Expanding reimbursement for remote patient monitoring services in Medicare fee-for-service for patients with two or more chronic conditions
  • Allowing telemedicine and remote patient monitoring to be basic Medicare Advantage benefits, without many of the current payment restrictions  

The CONNECT for Health Act has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

An independent study conducted earlier this year by Avalere, a leading health care consulting firm, determined that this bill could save taxpayers $1.8 billion over 10 years.  It could also have an immediate impact by improving patient access with nearly 8.2 million Medicare beneficiaries receiving telemedicine and remote patient monitoring services through a demonstration program under the merit-based incentive program by 2017.

While the bill takes several important steps, Kahn did tell the lawmakers more can be done.

“FAH would like to see additional reforms to expand covered services. Currently, Medicare only covers a very limited set of services, and CMS must approve new services for telemedicine coverage on a case-by-case basis,” Kahn’s letter stated. “We would also like to see advancements in payment parity and site origination parity among all levels of care.  The telemedicine payment and coverage gap is currently a patchwork of arbitrary insurance requirements and disparate payment streams that need to be reformed.”

FAH and its more than 1,100 investor-owned or managed hospitals and health systems throughout the United States will continue to work with lawmakers and federal agencies to expand the use of and access to telemedicine for patients and providers.