Sen. Warner introduces bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services

U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and John Thune (R-SD) in introducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services in Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers.

mark warner“Virginia is a telehealth leader, and since my time as Governor, I have been working to harness innovation to improve patient care,” said Senator Mark Warner. “As Congress works to improve the quality of care provided to chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries, the bipartisanCONNECT for Health Act is an exciting opportunity to build on both Virginia’s successful efforts, and the proven effectiveness of telehealth in the private sector, to expand the use of technology in Medicare and bring the program into the 21st century.”

Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions and asynchronous medical data transfers (store-and-forward technologies).  Remote patient monitoring refers to personal medical data transmitted securely from an individual in one location via electronic communications technologies to a provider in a different location for the purposes of medical care.

In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.

“The University of Virginia Health System and our Center for Telehealth are thrilled to work with Senator Warner to reduce barriers to the adoption of telehealth and remote patient monitoring that further improve access to timely, high quality care for our Medicare beneficiaries. The Connect for Health Act of 2017 promises to modernize telehealth services within our Medicare program and align 21st century healthcare policies with 21st century innovations in telehealth to improve health outcomes and create greater patient engagement,” said Dr. Karen Rheuban, Director of the UVA Center for Telehealth.

According to studies, telehealth and remote patient monitoring have been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing costs. The CONNECT for Health Act is a bipartisan approach to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring in Medicare.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Build on the CONNECT for Health Act-inspired provisions in the CHRONIC Care Act, which expand the use of telehealth in accountable care organizations and Medicare Advantage, as well as for home dialysis patients and the evaluation of an acute stroke;
  • Expand the use of remote patient monitoring for certain patients with chronic conditions;
  • Increase telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in community health centers and rural health clinics, Native American sites, and in global and bundled payments;
  • Provide direct authority to the HHS secretary to lift existing restrictions on telehealth when certain quality and cost-effectiveness criteria are met; and
  • Expand the use of tele-mental health.

“The AMA strongly supports the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 and applauds Senators Schatz, Wicker, Cochran, Cardin, Thune, and Warner for their continued leadership on telemedicine issues. This legislation would advance patient-centered care through strategic and validated telemedicine and remote-patient monitoring tools and modalities. Increasing Medicare coverage for these telemedicine services will help transform the next generation of health care delivery in ways that promote value and improved patient outcomes. The AMA looks forward to working to advance this legislation in the Congress,” said Andrew W. Gurman, MD, President of the American Medical Association.

“Giving seniors access to remote care is an important part of the future of high-quality, value-based, cost-effective care in Medicare. The CONNECT for Health Act makes it a reality,” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care.

“Medicare beneficiaries deserve access to telehealth services already available within almost every other health program including Medicaid, Veterans Health, private insurance plans and most recently TRICARE.  This bill may be their best hope for this Congress,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association.

The CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 is supported by more than 50 organizations including ACT | The App Association, Alliance for Connected Care, Alliance for Home Dialysis, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Telemedicine Association, AMGA, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Children’s Health Fund, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Connected Health Initiative, Federation of State Medical Boards, Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, Healthcare Leadership Council, HIMSS, Intel, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Personal Connected Health Alliance, Qualcomm Incorporated, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth, and the University of Virginia Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth.

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