Six legislators introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth

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Six U.S. Senators have introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that aims to extend telehealth services to Medicare patients to improve access and outcomes while reducing costs.

Introduced by Senators Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, John Thune, R-South Dakota, and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, CONNECT is designed to expand telehealth in accountable care organizations and those with Medicare Advantage.

“Telehealth is the future of healthcare. It expands access to care, lowers costs and helps more people stay healthy,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the health care system for both patients and health care providers.”

The bill hopes to improve remote patient monitoring for patients with chronic diseases and individuals in community health centers and rural locations. Providing direct authority to HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, will lift the current restrictions on telehealth for certain quality and cost-effective criteria. Additionally, the bill adds telemental health to the list of expanded services.

“The AMA strongly supports the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 and applauds Senators Schatz, Wicker, Cochran, Cardin, Thune, and Warner for their continued leadership on telemedicine issues. This legislation would advance patient-centered care through strategic and validated telemedicine and remote-patient monitoring tools and modalities. Increasing Medicare coverage for these telemedicine services will help transform the next generation of health care delivery in ways that promote value and improved patient outcomes. The AMA looks forward to working to advance this legislation in the Congress,” said Andrew W. Gurman, MD, president of the American Medical Association.