Senate Bill Calls for Expanded Telehealth Services and Coverage

Dec. 3, 2015
U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) this week introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act (S. 2343) with the aim of expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth services.

U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) this week introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act (S. 2343) with the aim of expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth services.

The bill requests the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to examine the effect of including telehealth services in Medicare healthcare delivery reform models.

In a press release, Sen. Gardner stated that currently Medicare covers limited telehealth services, “setting a poor industry standard, discouraging innovation, and restricting access to specialized services.”

The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI), according to the press release.

“Additionally, the bill directs CMI to review and independently evaluate telehealth models for cost, effectiveness, and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of delivery. If the telehealth model meets this criteria, then the model will be covered through the greater Medicare program,” the press release states.

“People living in rural Colorado should have access to the same health care services as those living in urban areas,” Sen. Gardner said in a statement. “Telemedicine has the power to increase access to specialized services in underserved communities, and potentially lower costs and improve patient outcomes. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would pave the way for Medicare to expand coverage to additional telehealth services, and potentially provide those living with life-threatening conditions in rural America with more opportunities and more options to receive the care they need.

And the bill has received support from industry stakeholders, as the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) issued a statement praising the legislation.

JC Scott, senior executive vice president, government affairs for AdvaMed, stated that advances in telehealth and remote monitoring hold the promise to dramatically improve patient care while bringing greater efficiency and value to the U.S. healthcare system.

“AdvaMed commends Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) for introducing the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, which will allow more American patients to benefit from these innovative technologies. The legislation would require CMS’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to examine whether delivery reform initiatives, such as ACOs and bundled payments, can demonstrate how telehealth and remote monitoring services can help providers achieve program goals. We believe that extending coverage for these services can produce savings in the Medicare program while increasing access and improving or maintaining quality of care,” Scott said. 

Gardner also said the legislation would “incentivize the industry to develop cutting edge technology that could revolutionize healthcare delivery.”

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