Telehealth Provisions in SGR Bill Are Not Dead, ATA Official Says

March 20, 2014 in News

An American Telemedicine Association official recently predicted that telehealth provisions included in a controversial bill to repeal and replace Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula eventually would be added to other legislation if the measure fails to pass the Senate, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Pedulli, Clinical Innovation Technology, 3/19).

Background on Bill

Last month, members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees introduced the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act.

Among other things, the bill beginning in 2018 would require physicians to participate in a new merit-based incentive payment system — called MIPS — that would consolidate three existing incentive programs:

  • The Physician Quality Reporting System;
  • The Value-Based Payment Modifier; and
  • The Meaningful use program (iHealthBeat, 2/19).

In addition, the bill would allow telehealth services to be applied to alternative payment models, including:

  • Accountable care organizations;
  • Bundled payments; and
  • Medical homes.

Earlier this month, the House voted to approve the legislation after Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) added an amendment that would delay until 2019 penalties for consumers who failed to purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

According to Clinical Innovation Technology, the amendment effectively guaranteed the bill would fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


During a monthly videocast, Gary Capistrant — senior director of public policy for the ATA — said he believes that “at some point this year” the telehealth provisions will be added to other legislation being considered. He noted that lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to cover the cost of repealing the SGR.

Meanwhile, ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous said the group will continue to urge HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow Medicare providers using alternative payment models to be reimbursed for telehealth services. He said, “I think it’s time for Medicare to move forward,” adding, “We tried to make that request three years ago when setting up ACOs. Now, with years of experience and many ACOs doing well, it’s time to do that” (Clinical Innovation Technology, 3/19).

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