Providers are lauding a new bi-partisan bill aimed at tweaking rules covering Medicare Accountable Care Organizations, including waiving restrictions on the use of telehealth.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.). The measure would reduce regulatory burdens for ACOs by waiving the telehealth site-of-service requirements, a modification sought by the American Medical Group Association, among other organizations.
Fisher, president and CEO of the AMGA in a news release statement said the suggested policy changes are a "positive step that will improve the long term viability of the Medicare Shared Savings Program."
CAPG, an association of 250 physician organizations practicing capitated, coordinated care, also said the bill will lead to better care coordination through improved access to both telehealth services and remote patient monitoring.
Other key provisions of the Black/Welch bill include a waiver of the three-day prior hospitalization requirement for coverage of skilled-nursing facility services and a waiver of the homebound requirement for coverage of home health services.
Commercial health plans have begun to embrace telehealth as a way to increase convenience and control costs. And state regulations are coming along apace, with the National Conference of State Legislatures estimating that 32 states will have telehealth laws – often mandating parity of coverage with office visits -- in effect by 2017. Some investors also are betting on a bright, profitable future for firms offering the technology. Two telemedicine companies raised $61 million in their latest financing rounds this past summer.