Bi-Partisan Bill Would Expand Telehealth Coverage, Includes New Incentives

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)
Bill Would Expand Telehealth Coverage

This fall, a bi-partisan group of US Representatives introduced the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, and it was immediately supported by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).

The bill has several provisions of interest to home health agencies, including coverage of home-based video services for hospice care, home dialysis, and homebound beneficiaries.

The bill proposes adjustments to Medicare home health payments to account for remote patient monitoring and expands coverage to all critical access and sole community hospitals, regardless of metropolitan status.

There’s a provision that proposes to allow states to set up high-risk pregnancy networks in their Medicaid programs. It was modeled on Arkansas’s ANGELS program, which uses telehealth to coordinate at-risk births and neonatal care.

The bill also includes:

  1. An incentive for fewer Medicare hospital readmissions
  2. Coverage of telehealth services under Medicare payment bundles for hospital and post-acute care
  3. A provision to allow Medicare accountable care organizations to use telehealth solutions like Medicare managed care plans
  4. Facilitation of Medicare home-based kidney dialysis

“Until we are able to attract more physicians to rural communities and tighten the access gap, the best alternative is to use technology to connect health professionals with underserved populations — rural and urban — through telehealth networks,” the lawmakers said when they introduced the bill.

In its endorsement, ATA said the bill takes a sensible approach to move aside government restrictions and allow patients access to health services wherever they are located. “Instead of going to the doctor, it allows the doctor to go to the patient,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO.

The bill was authored by Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committee.

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