Today represents the first real chance we have had to change Medicare payment policy for telehealth and remote patient monitoring. While the commercial market adopts these tools at a rapid rate, there is virtually no access for seniors in Medicare. This issue got a powerful boost this morning with the introduction of the CONNECT for Health Act in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Six bipartisan U.S. Senators, including three Committee chairman, and four U.S. Representatives on committees of jurisdiction, came together to introduce a bill that has been endorsed by more than 50 groups, including AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Heart Association and more.
The CONNECT for Health Act, which is led in the Senate by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and in the House by Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT), is a measured approach that lifts Medicare’s outdated restrictions on the use of telehealth, provides resources for remote patient monitoring technology for patients with chronic conditions, ensures new payment models will include these tools, makes these technologies part of Medicare Advantage, and addresses specific challenges related to stroke and dialysis.
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. Patients with commercial coverage have access to these tools through their employers, health plans or health system. The evidence from their usage proves that telehealth and remote monitoring can move our health care system toward better care at lower costs.
According to an independent analysis from Avalere Health, the CONNECT for Health Act will decrease federal spending by $1.8 billion over the next ten-year period. In addition, the study estimates an immediate impact improving patient access with nearly 8.2 million Medicare beneficiaries receiving telemedicine and remote patient monitoring services through a demonstration waiver program by 2017.
It is long overdue for Congress to modernize care and access for all Medicare beneficiaries.