Senate committee approves important telehealth amendments
In a recent and unexpected move, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee approved two important amendments to improve Medicare coverage for telehealth services. Both amendments were authored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD). The first of the two amendments lifts restrictions on the use of telehealth for any health system financed under an “alternative payment model” (such as Accountable Care Organizations) beginning in 2017. This is an important win as Medicare payments for physicians and practitioners shift to value-based, all-inclusive payment methods. This will permit ACOs and Medical Homes to have the same flexibility allowed for telehealth by Medicare’s managed care plans. This amendment was also sponsored by Sens. Wyden (D-OR), Roberts (R-KS), Rockefeller (D-WV), Enzi (R-WY) and Stabenow (D-MI). Also, a second amendment was passed to establish a Medicare demonstration program on remote patient monitoring for home health agencies and other entities. This advances Sen. Thune’s Fostering Independence Through Technology Act (S. 596).
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