Days after a bill was introduced to the Senate that would allow Medicare to test covering more telehealth models, the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee introduced a bill that would put more Medicare money into telemedicine.
The sponsors of the bill—Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)—are seeking to improve the quality of care for chronically ill Medicare patients.
The bill reflects a growing push to care for patients not only when they're sick enough to go to the hospital but before, preventing the exacerbation of problems that can lead to great overall healthcare costs
Under the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017, Medicare would cover a broader array of services for treating chronically ill patients, including telehealth delivered at home.
In addition to expanding Medicare Advantage coverage of telemedicine for all patients, the bill would also expand coverage of telehealth for specific groups of patients: stroke patients and recipients of dialysis at home, who would be able to have their monthly clinical assessments performed via telehealth without geographic restrictions.
Some telehealth might be delivered through accountable care organizations which, under the bill, would have a greater ability to provide telemedicine.
The bill would also expand the CMS' Independence at Home, a program that began in 2012 through which seniors with multiple chronic conditions can receive care at home.
“This bill provides new options and tools for seniors and their doctors to coordinate care and makes it less burdensome to stay health,” said Sen. Wyden in a statement.
The first iteration of the CHRONIC Care Act died after being introduced in Congress in December 2016. Reintroducing the bill is part of the sponsors' efforts to develop policies that will improve the quality of care without adding to the federal deficit, said Sen. Hatch in a statement.
The CHRONIC Care Act is the second bill in recent weeks that seeks to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, introduced last week, would allow hospitals to test providing telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries.