2 telemedicine bills set to return to Congress

Two telehealth bills proposed in 2013 and 2014 are set to be reintroduced to Congress, putting legislators back on track to discuss giving providers more opportunities to use telemedicine and be reimbursed for it.

The bills, orchestrated by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), had been delayed due to Congress’ work on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s work on telemedicine initiatives. But officials at the American Telemedicine Association, which had a hand in developing both bills, said they’ll soon be brought back….

…Harper’s bill, HR 3306, was first introduced on Oct. 22, 2013 as the Telehealth Enhancement Act of 2013, with co-sponsors Thompson, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). It calls for Medicare home health payments to account for remote patient monitoring and expands coverage to all critical access and sole community hospitals, regardless of metropolitan status. It also covers home-based video services for hospice care, home dialysis and homebound beneficiaries and allows states to set up high-risk pregnancy networks within their Medicaid programs.

In an analysis by the ATA, the proposed bill would:

Add incentives for fewer Medicare hospital readmissions;
Create new Medicaid optional packages for high-risk pregnancy and birth networks;
Cover telehealth services under Medicare payment bundles for post-acute care;
Allow Medicare accountable care organizations to use telehealth like Medicare managed care plans; and
Facilitate Medicare home-based kidney dialysis.