Bill Expanding Telehealth Services Could Save $1.8 Billon Over 10 Years

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at expanding telehealth services through Medicare, in an attempt to cut costs and expand access to health-care providers.

The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act, or CONNECT for Health Act — spearheaded by Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz, Ben Cardin and Mark Warner, and Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Thad Cochran, and John Thune — would expand the use of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. The bill would enable health care professionals to use video conference technology to communicate with high risk patients and allow would allow for asynchronous medical data transfers, which are currently unavailable.

“Utilization of telehealth systems is crucial for many South Dakotans living in rural areas,” Thune said in a joint statement. “The CONNECT for Health Act will give patients more flexibility with their health care regardless of where they choose to reside.”

The bill would expand reimbursements for telehealth services to include care from patients’ homes, not just the regional office rural health coordinators currently approved in Medicare’s fee-for-service program.

Warner said the bill has the potential to “transform” the Medicare program.

companion bill was also introduced in the House Wednesday.

“As a registered nurse, I am proud to introduce the House companion to this critical legislation that will expand access to life-saving technologies for beneficiaries across the country, particularly those in rural communities like those found across my district,” Republican Rep. Diane Black said in a statement.  “Medical innovation and technology is at the forefront of today’s health care system, and it is vital that the Medicare program embrace these advances to ensure quality, affordable care remains available to our nation’s seniors.”

According to a recent study by Avalere, a Washington-based health care consulting firm, the measure would save $1.8 billion over the course of a decade. More than 50 organizations, including the American Heart Association, the ERISA Industry Committee and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have come out in support for the bill.

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