A bill has been introduced in the US Congress with the aim of improving Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The cross-party bill HR 5558, to be known as the ACO improvement act of 2014, if passed, will amend the Medicare ACO Programs to permit the use of remote patient monitoring, deliver images to remote providers and improve the data sharing between ACOs and Medicare administration.
ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who come together voluntarily to give care to Medicare patients. The goal of the three ACO programs is to ensure patients, specially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time avoiding duplication and waste. When an ACO succeeds in achieving savings for Medicare, that saving is shared with the ACO.
The bill introduced on September 18 by Reps Mrs Diane Black (R – Tennessee) and Peter Welch (D – Vermont) proposes to change the current fee-for-service payment model to promote the use of telehealth by ACOs.
How successful the bill will be in the current political climate remains to be seen. I am told that since the passing of the Affordable Care Act the polarisation in Congress is such that little, if any, is getting through. For example, the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2013 (which we reported in December last year – see here) introduced by Doris Matsui (D – California) on 13 December 2013 has just been referred to the House sub-committee on Health, almost exactly ten months on. The fact that the current bill is a cross-party bill may help to overcome that.
The Telecommunications Industry Association, TIA, has written to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce supporting the aims of HR 5558. Although the letter does not directly refer to the bill the letter recommends the inclusion of telehealth by ACO and in the ACO programs and authorization of the use of remote patient monitoring.
Specific signatories include the ATA, Continua Health, Intel, Philips and Qualcomm. The full text is available on the TIA website here.