Federal Lawmakers Reintroduce Legislation to Expand Medicare’s Coverage of Telehealth Services

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On October 30, 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are members of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019. The primary sponsors of the bill are Senators Brian Schatz, Roger Wicker, Ben Cardin, John Thune, Mark Warner, and Cindy Hyde-Smith. If enacted, the CONNECT for Health Act would improve Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services, including remote patient monitoring, by adjusting statutory barriers to coverage found in Sec. 1834(m) of the Social Security Act. These provisions currently inhibit Medicare’s coverage of these services by imposing strict geographical and technological requirements that must be met for the services to be covered.

Additionally, the legislation would require the Medicare Payment and Advisory Commission (MEDPAC) to study which telehealth services would be appropriate for home-based care and issue a report on their findings. While many home-based providers have embraced the delivery of home-based services, the lack of Medicare coverage for those services has hindered widespread adoption. Currently, only 0.25 percent of Medicare beneficiaries utilize telehealth services, which demonstrates how rarely Medicare beneficiaries are able to make use of the latest advancements in health technology and remote delivery due to Medicare’s stringent coverage standards.

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