- After receiving the unanimous support of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the 21st Century Cures Act now awaits the consideration of the entire House of Representative, including its provisions for expanding use of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries.
The purpose of the introduced legislation (HR 6) is "to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of 21st century cures, and for other purposes" and telehealth falls under the third category of delivery along with interoperability and continuing medical education for physicians.
Chief among its telehealth provisions, the 21st Century Cures Act calls on the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide Congress with reports on four areas.
The first would comprise an account of Medicare beneficiaries "whose care may be improved most in terms of quality and efficiency by the expansion … of telehealth services under section." The second would provide an account of the work by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation on telehealth adoption and use. The third would detail high-volume procedure and diagnostic codes that "might be suitable to the furnishing of services via telehealth." The last would identify barriers in the way of expanding telehealth services.
CMS would be required to furnish Congress with information in a year's time following the enactment of the proposed bill. Through the bill, Congress would seek similar information from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).
The remaining telehealth-related components of the 21st Century Cures Act provide insight into the federal government's vision for the future of telemedicine.
First, Congress indicates that states need to address provider licensure through the use of "common licensure requirements services in order to facilitate multistate practices and allow for health care providers to provide such services" in multiple states.
Second, the proposed bill identifies the physical location of the patient receiving services in determining appropriate licensing.
Third, Congress looks to expand eligible originating sites.
Lastly, the 21st Century Cures act specifies how the Medicare program should go about expanding telehealth services:
(A) recognize that telemedicine is the delivery of safe, effective, quality health care services, by a health care provider, using technology as the mode of care delivery;
(B) meet or exceed the conditions of coverage and payment with respect to the Medicare program under title XVIII unless specifically address in subsequent statute, of such Act if the service were furnished in person, including standards of care; and
(C) involve clinically appropriate means to furnish such services.
The most current version of the proposed bill does little to address the criticism of the likes of the American Telemedicine Association which recently found fault with its plans to commission another series of reports rather than adopting new measures.