Sneaking under the holiday week wire, when Congress high-tails it for home, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed the telemedicine and telehealth provisions in the US Senate’s pending CHRONIC Care Act and found last week that they do not increase or decrease Medicare spending overall. Formally S.870 – Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017–and sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, this means that this bill developed by the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group has passed a key spending acceptability test, and is another step further towards passage. CHRONIC removes many of the qualifiers that Medicare hedged around telehealth and telemedicine, with most restricting reimbursement to rural areas. There are four areas where the Act removes barriers:
- Nationwide coverage for Telestroke
- Home remote patient monitoring for Dialysis Therapy
- Enhanced telehealth coverage for ACOs–this expands the provisions in the Next Generation ACO program to ACOs participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Stages II, III and the few left in Pioneer, so that telehealth will be reimbursed regardless of geographic location and in the home.
- Increased flexibility for telehealth coverage under Medicare Advantage plans
There’s a long way to go, but this is an important step forward to an equal playing field for telehealth services. National Law Review’s summary
Telehealth may be budget neutral for the government but will very budget positive for consumers. It will reduce transportation time and expense, lost time from work, delay before treatment, and so on.
Let us hope that telehealth will be included in all healthcare plans as soon as possible.