Bipartisan bill seeks to expand Medicare-covered telehealth services


A group of US Senators introduced a new version of a bipartisan bill to expand Medicare-covered telehealth and remote patient monitoring services across the country. Previously, the bill was introduced by the six-Senator group, headed by Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Called the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, the bill aims to waive restrictions around Medicare telehealth coverage that are considered outdated or arbitrary. And unsurprisingly, it has support of the American Medical Association, the American Telemedicine Association, and the Alliance for Connected Care as well as many industry groups, health systems and tech vendors.

“Telehealth is the future of healthcare. It expands access to care, lowers costs, and helps more people stay healthy,” Senator Brian Schatz said in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the health care system for both patients and health care providers.”

As it currently stands, there are several provisions of the Social Security Act that are holding back Medicare reimbursement for telehealth, and the bill aims to take those roadblocks down. It will expand remote patient monitoring programs for people with chronic conditions, define reimbursable CMS telehealth codes, expand remote monitoring programs at community health centers and rural clinics, give HHS the authority to lift restrictions on telehealth, and establish new allowances for global and bundled payment models.

“This legislation would advance patient-centered care through strategic and validated telemedicine and remote-patient monitoring tools and modalities,” AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman said in a statement. “Increasing Medicare coverage for these telemedicine services will help transform the next generation of healthcare delivery in ways that promote value and improved patient outcomes.”

The bill also builds on the recently reintroduced CHRONIC Care act, which also sought to telemedicine coverage under Medicare Advantage Plan B in 2020, while at the same time providing more freedom for ACOs in their use of telemedicine.