Good news from
Capitol Hill for telehealth advocates: For a third time, the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act
(S. 773/H.R. 4013) has been reintroduced in both legislative chambers. This
bill has been quite the “little engine that could”; it keeps persistently
coming back despite the bill’s first failed attempt back in 2015 and second
failed attempt two years later in 2017. The Telehealth
Innovation and Improvement Act is basically a call for greater telehealth
innovation (as the name implies) and increased reimbursement for telehealth
services. The bill, as mHealth Intelligence sums up, “seeks
to encourage more health care providers to launch telehealth programs through
the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid
Innovation (CMMI).” The bill also asks the CMI to assess telehealth models and
requires Medicare to reimburse for those models if they meet the following
three criteria: cost, effectiveness, and improved quality care without raised
costs for delivery.
The bill, when first introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) in 2015 (the two reintroduced a version of the legislation in the Senate back in March), maintains the same three goals. First, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be required to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth models through the CMMI. Secondly, those telehealth models must be evaluated for the previously mentioned criteria by an independent CMI evaluator. Lastly, if the test model meets the criteria, Medicare will cover that specific model. The CMMI has faced continued criticism for its lack of support because the organization continues to hold back on adoption policies and reimbursement for providers. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act hoped to address that criticism back in 2015, and still seeks to do the same.
continues to garner support from both sides of the political aisle. For U.S
Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), who spoke about the bill in a press
release, the bill is vital to states with rural communities. His lead co-sponsor,
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), maintained a similar position, believing that
“[t]echnology provides great potential to enhance connectivity between
healthcare professionals and their patients” and the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act will facilitate that.
With all of this newfound support, hopefully this third time will be the charm,
and the final time the bill appears before Congress.