Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Telehealth Services, Improve Health Outcomes, and Reduce Costs
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services in Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers.
“Telehealth is the future of health care. It expands access to care, lowers costs, and helps more people stay healthy,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the health care system for both patients and health care providers.”
“This legislation seeks to harness the promise of American technology and innovation to lower costs and improve the quality of care for Medicare patients,” said Senator Roger Wicker. “Telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have proven to be cost-effective tools to care for some of Mississippi’s most rural populations. I am confident that we can achieve improved access through telehealth for Medicare patients across the country.”
“Mississippi is a national leader in demonstrating how telehealth can successfully bring health care to people in their communities, often providing life-saving care that otherwise would not be available. The bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act is intended to use Mississippi’s good example to expand telehealth services nationwide,” said Senator Thad Cochran. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on this important issue.”
“Greater use of technology to connect patients and doctors will benefit both with better outcomes, as well as more timely and efficient use of resources,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “We have the technology today to promote the delivery of high quality care in an efficient and cost-effective way around the country. I’ve seen firsthand the positive value of telehealth and remote monitoring in Maryland that connects ICU patients with critical care staff based at larger medical centers. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this strong bipartisan effort to expand telehealth and remote patient monitoring services.”
“In states like South Dakota, where rural communities are often a great distance from their urban counterparts, accessing quality health care can be a challenge,” said Senator John Thune. “Utilization of telehealth systems in smaller cities and towns would give rural South Dakotans greater peace of mind and save them time and money that would have otherwise been spent traveling to and from hospitals or clinics that are far from home. That’s why passing our CONNECT for Health Act is so important.”
“Virginia is a telehealth leader, and since my time as Governor, I have been working to harness innovation to improve patient care,” said Senator Mark Warner. “As Congress works to improve the quality of care provided to chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries, the bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act is an exciting opportunity to build on both Virginia’s successful efforts, and the proven effectiveness of telehealth in the private sector, to expand the use of technology in Medicare and bring the program into the 21st century.”
Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions and asynchronous medical data transfers (store-and-forward technologies). Remote patient monitoring refers to personal medical data transmitted securely from an individual in one location via electronic communications technologies to a provider in a different location for the purposes of medical care.
According to studies, telehealth and remote patient monitoring have been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing costs. The CONNECT for Health Act is a bipartisan approach to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring in Medicare.
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Build on the CONNECT for Health Act-inspired provisions in the CHRONIC Care Act, which expand the use of telehealth in accountable care organizations and Medicare Advantage, as well as for home dialysis patients and the evaluation of an acute stroke;
- Expand the use of remote patient monitoring for certain patients with chronic conditions;
- Increase telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in community health centers and rural health clinics, Native American sites, and in global and bundled payments;
- Provide direct authority to the HHS secretary to lift existing restrictions on telehealth when certain quality and cost-effectiveness criteria are met; and
- Expand the use of tele-mental health.
“The AMA strongly supports the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 and applauds Senators Schatz, Wicker, Cochran, Cardin, Thune, and Warner for their continued leadership on telemedicine issues. This legislation would advance patient-centered care through strategic and validated telemedicine and remote-patient monitoring tools and modalities. Increasing Medicare coverage for these telemedicine services will help transform the next generation of health care delivery in ways that promote value and improved patient outcomes. The AMA looks forward to working to advance this legislation in the Congress,” said Andrew W. Gurman, MD, President of the American Medical Association.
“Giving seniors access to remote care is an important part of the future of high-quality, value-based, cost-effective care in Medicare. The CONNECT for Health Act makes it a reality,” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care.
“Medicare beneficiaries deserve access to telehealth services already available within almost every other health program including Medicaid, Veterans Health, private insurance plans and most recently TRICARE. This bill may be their best hope for this Congress,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association.
The CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 is supported by more than 50 organizations including ACT | The App Association, Alliance for Connected Care, Alliance for Home Dialysis, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Telemedicine Association, AMGA, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Children’s Health Fund, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Connected Health Initiative, Federation of State Medical Boards, Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, Healthcare Leadership Council, HIMSS, Intel, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Personal Connected Health Alliance, Qualcomm Incorporated, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth, and the University of Virginia Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth.
To read the bill text, click here. To read a one-page summary, click here.