Six United States Senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that would that would expand telehealth services through Medicare. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019 would also improve health outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, and help cut costs for patients and providers.
LeadingAge and CAST are listed as two of the 120 supporting organizations. The final bill is in line with LeadingAge CAST’s recommendations to and advocacy efforts with the Congressional Telehealth Caucus, which include the following:

  • Encourage the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to test Telehealth models in Medicare and
  • Require the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to study how different payers cover the home as an originating site and what services should be suitable for the home to be an originating site under Medicare.

According to studies, telehealth has been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing hospitalizations. The CONNECT for Health Act of 2019 builds on the progress made in recent years to increase the use of telehealth through Medicare. Specifically, the legislation would do the following:

  • Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the authority to waive telehealth restrictions when necessary;
  • Remove geographic and originating site restrictions for services like mental health and emergency medical care;
  • Allow rural health clinics and other community-based health care centers to provide telehealth services; and
  • Require a study to explore more ways to expand telehealth services so that more people can access health care services in their own homes. 

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS.), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) introduced the bill on Oct. 30, 2019.
Schatz and the Senate telehealth working group first introduced the CONNECT for Health Act in 2016. Since then, a number of provisions have been signed into law or adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The updated version includes new key measures health care experts, providers, and patient advocates agree will help improve access to care and drive down costs.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA Peter Welch (D-VT), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Bill Johnson (R-OH).
See the bill’s summary and the full bill.