House committees give health IT bills thumbs up
- The House Ways and Means Committee unanimously passed legislation (H.R. 3727) that would make telehealth a core benefit in Medicare Advantage plans.
- “This bill is about upgrading current law to not just allow but actually to encourage the use of telehealth technology to bring the best healthcare possible to our seniors, while also working to address those skyrocketing healthcare costs,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) was quoted in FierceHealthcare.
- The Increasing Telehealth Access in Medicare Act is among a number of bills garnering bipartisan support in this Congress.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee approved two health IT bills.
The first, the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act (H.R. 1148), would broaden telestroke coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. The second bill (H.R. 3120) would ease Meaningful Use requirements for physicians by removing language in the HITECH Act that directs the HHS secretary to ramp up MU requirements over time.
In May, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act (S. 870), which would expand telehealth access to Medicare recipients with chronic conditions and increase incentives for beneficiaries to receive telehealth services through accountable care organizations.
CHRONIC would also extend for two years the Independence at Home pilot to treat enrollees with multiple conditions at home instead of in the hospital. And it would include patients’ primary freestanding dialysis facilities to the originating sites list for purposes of monthly telehealth checks with a nephrologist, among other provisions.
Other health IT bills being debated this Congress are the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (H.R. 2556) and the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act (H.R. 3528). CONNECT, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black, would increase use of remote patient monitoring for patients with certain chronic diseases, as well as in rural health clinics and community health centers. A companion bill (S. 1016) is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.
The e-prescriptions bill, sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), seeks to enhance prescription drug monitoring by requiring physicians to submit all prescriptions electronically.
Digital health has gotten a boost from a wave of bipartisan legislation in recent years. Last year, lawmakers passed the 21st Century Cures Act that, among other things, tasks ONC with improving health IT interoperability. The law also removes the Food and Drug Administration from regulating certain categories of software and low-risk medical devices, such as FitBits.