Bipartisan Senate Bill Calls for Expanded Telehealth Services and Coverage

April 4, 2017
Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced last week the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act legislation that would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test the effect of including telehealth services in Medicare health care delivery reform models.

Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced last week the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act legislation that would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test the effect of including telehealth services in Medicare health care delivery reform models.

The bill (S. 787) requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the CMMI. Additionally, it directs CMMI to have an independent evaluation conducted to assess the 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.

According to a press release issued by Sen. Gardner, the bill would expand access to healthcare in both rural and urban areas by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services. “Currently, Medicare covered limited telehealth services, setting a poor industry standard, discouraging innovation and restricting access to specialized services,” Gardner stated in the press release.

Sens. Gardner and Peters introduced similar legislation, S. 2343, in 2015, but the legislation did not pass out of the Senate.

“All Coloradans deserve access to health care services regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas,” Gardner said in a prepared statement. “The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would allow Medicare to expand coverage of telehealth services and increase access for people living in rural America. It would also incentivize the healthcare industry to develop new technologies that could potentially reduce costs and improve patient health. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to advance this commonsense legislation that will help rural Coloradans access better care.”

 “Michigan seniors and families in rural and underserved communities are using telehealth technology to receive specialized and quality health care that otherwise would not be readily available,” Sen. Peters said in a statement. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation has the potential to help expand access to care for Michigan seniors, lower health care costs and reduce costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations and readmissions.”

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