House Lawmakers Float Draft Bill on Medicare Telehealth Payments

January 14, 2015 in News

On Monday, lawmakers in the House circulated a draft bill that would grant HHS more freedom to waive Medicare restrictions on reimbursements for telehealth services, Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” reports.

Draft Bill Details

Members of a congressional “telehealth working group” drafted the measure, called Advancing Telehealth Opportunities in Medicare (Gold, “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 1/13). The group includes Reps.:

  • Bill Johnson (R-Ohio);
  • Bob Latta (R-Ohio);
  • Doris Matsui (D-Calif.);
  • Frank Pallone (D-N.J.);
  • Fred Upton (R-Mich.);
  • Gregg Harper (R-Miss.);
  • Greg Walden (D-Ore.); and
  • Peter Welch (D-Vt.) (Pittman, Politico Pro, 1/12).

According to “Morning eHealth,” the draft bill contains provisions that would allow Medicare to make additional payments for telehealth services if they meet specific requirements, such as:

  • Providing unmet medical needs; or
  • Reducing costs (“Morning eHealth,” Politico, 1/13).

The measure would require CMS’ chief actuary to ensure that the telehealth payments “would reduce (or would not result in any increase in) net program spending” (Young, CQ Roll Call, 1/13).

Draft Bill Circulation

The draft bill was circulated by eight members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including Upton, who serves as the committee chair, and Pallone, a ranking member of the committee.

The group of lawmakers is hoping to get feedback on the measure from industry stakeholders by Jan. 26. If the lawmakers receive positive feedback, they could introduce a final bill in February, according to congressional and lobbying sources. If the feedback is negative, it could take longer for a final measure to be released (Politico Pro, 1/12).

Reaction

The Alliance for Connected Care commended the draft, saying in a statement that Medicare beneficiaries “deserve the same access to telehealth that consumers in the commercial marketplace and Medicare Advantage already enjoy.” According to CQ Roll Call, people who have traditional Medicare plans currently do not have the same access to telehealth as those enrolled in Medicare Advantage (CQ Roll Call, 1/13).

Meanwhile, Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White in a statement said that while “the bill is a great step in the right direction in addressing Medicare’s outmoded treatment in how it incentivizes telemedicine,” it “does not go far enough to incent telemedicine in Medicare.” Specifically, White said Health IT Now is “disappointed that the draft bill continues to rely on state compacts in addressing burdensome state medical licensure system,” which White said could delay progress (Health IT Now release, 1/13).

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