What the CONNECT for Health Act could mean for patients and the federal budget

Avizia’s CEO and founder, Mike Baird, discusses what the CONNECT for Health Act could mean for patients—and the federal budget—in an article published by HIT Leaders & News. Baird explains that for value-based care to succeed in both reducing costs and improving patients care, telehealth needs to be a key part of the equation.

The current Medicare rules on telehealth are counter intuitive and an outdated way to care for patients. Current policy restricts utilization of and reimbursement for telehealth by narrowly defining conditions around eligibility for Medicare coverage. As a result, care delivered via telehealth is limited to people who live in a rural area and willing to go to a specific care location.

Today, Medicare does not cover:

  • “Store‐and‐forward” services (such as transmission of medical images) for the 43 million beneficiaries who live outside of Alaska and Hawaii.
  • Services originating from a beneficiary’s home (even for the “homebound”), a hospice and other common non‐medical locations from which a beneficiary seeks service.
  • Otherwise covered Medicare services of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech‐language pathology, audiology and some other practitioners.
  • Most health procedure codes, precluding the best judgment of physicians and other practitioners about the medical needs and other circumstances of beneficiaries.

Policy needs to change to empower physicians to use telehealth to improve access and quality, and lower costs. Luckily, the CONNECT for Health Act will push Medicare in the right direction.

Both consumer and physician mindsets toward telehealth are changing. Greater integration of technology in both parties’ lives are increasing both acceptance and use. These changing perceptions, coupled with CMS’ commitment to shift heavily toward value-based care, requires a new baseline. One that considers the advancements of the last decade, new data and evidence, and the evolving health care ecosystem.

The new baseline needs to eliminate the originating site geographic requirements, lift restrictions on store-and-forward technologies and expand the list of providers eligible to treat patients via telehealth. Passing the CONNECT Act for Health will be a big step in the right direction.

Read this complete article on HIT Leaders & News here.

Avizia was acquired by American Well in July of 2018. Information on this page refers to activities that occurred prior to the acquisition and are presented for historical context. Together we provide a comprehensive acute care offering—a full end-to-end telemedicine solution for health systems and their providers.