A bipartisan group of US Senators has introduced a new telemedicine legislation that would move to waive restrictions on Medicare telehealth coverage which is often considered antiquated and/or arbitrary. Called the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, the bill was supported by a coalition of six senators and three representatives, as well as the American Medical Association, the American Telemedicine Association, and a number of other industry groups, health systems, and tech vendors.
“Our bipartisan bill puts us on a path to transform healthcare delivery, making it less costly and more convenient for patients and providers,” Schatz said in a statement.
The bill aims to improve access to telehealth in three ways: 1) it would establish a “bridge program” that allows doctors participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to apply for demonstration waivers that would exempt them from restrictions Medicare imposes on the coverage of telehealth; 2) it would automatically exempt participants in alternative payment models (such as ACOs) from those restrictions; and 3) it would expand the coverage of remote patient monitoring technologies for patients with chronic conditions.
In addition, telemedicine reimbursement options would be expanded for non-hospital sites such as telestroke evaluation and management sites, Native American health service facilities, dialysis facilities, community health centers, and rural health clinics.
According to Third Way, a centrist Washington think tank, the bill would save the government $1.8 billion despite that fact that the waiver program would increase federal spending by $1.1 billion.