Sources Say Telehealth Funds Cut From 21st Century Cures Package

April 16, 2015 in News

Industry sources say that the “21st Century Cures” legislative package will not include extra funding for Medicare telehealth services, Modern Healthcare reports (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 4/15).

Background

In January, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled a discussion draft for the bipartisan legislative package. While the discussion draft focuses largely on FDA and safeguarding medical device innovations, it contained several health IT-related proposals. Specifically, the draft included:

  • A proposal from Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) that would require NIH grant recipients to share their data;
  • Language from an Energy and Commerce workgroup that seeks to expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services; and
  • The SOFTWARE Act, which would develop a regulatory framework for FDA’s oversight of health IT.

The discussion draft also included several proposals targeting health data sharing, such as:

  • Language from a bill by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) that would encourage the sharing of electronic health record data;
  • Revising the 2009 HITECH Act to increase access to data stored in health care facilities; and
  • Streamlining informed consent rules and other types of ethical review of research.

In addition, a proposal Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) would seek increased funding for brain research.

The lawmakers are collecting feedback on the proposals in an effort to create a bill that could be approved and sent to President Obama by the end of 2015 (iHealthBeat, 1/28).

Details of Potential Telehealth Funding Removal

Although the committee has not commented on the potential removal of the additional telehealth funding, sources say that challenges posed by the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring system factored into the committee’s decision to drop the telehealth provisions from the package.

However, Krista Drobac, who heads the Alliance for Connected Care, expressed doubt that CBO’s scoring played a role, noting, “Telemedicine stakeholders came up with reams of ideas and data that would pass CBO muster.”

A committee spokesperson said in a statement, “Telemedicine is a priority for the committee … and will continue to be an important part of the 21st Century Cures initiative” (Modern Healthcare, 4/15).

In addition, one source noted that the telehealth language could still be included in the final package, but that committee leaders are trying to downplay the chances to curb industry expectations (Pittman et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 4/16).

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