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House Committee Poised to Consider Medicare Telehealth Bill

The FAST Act of 2017, which seeks to expend Medicare coverage for telehealth services for stroke treatment, could see a Congressional vote in September if legislators attach it to CHIP re-authorization.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A bill seeking Medicare reimbursement for telestroke services could be headed to a Congressional vote this September.

The FAST Act of 2017 (H.R. 1148) is included in the roster of Medicare-related bills to be reviewed this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. If it passes muster, Politico reports, the bill could be included in September legislation to re-authorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and several Medicare extender programs.

Re-introduced in February by U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act would amend the Social Security Act to expand Medicare coverage of telehealth services for stroke victims.

As described in a committee memo, the bill “would expand the ability of patients presenting at hospitals or at mobile stroke units to receive a Medicare reimbursed neurological consult via telemedicine.”

Medicare currently reimburses for a consultation only if the originating site hospital is in a rural Health Professional Shortage Area or a county outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The bill has the support of, among others, the American Heart Association and American Academy of Neurology.

“The FAST Act, as the name implies, will help more stroke victims gain faster access to high-quality care through remote evaluation and treatment - commonly called telestroke,” Beatty said in a February press release. “As a stroke survivor and co-chair of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition, I know firsthand how minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death.”

“This critical bill would make a world of difference for stroke survivors facing barriers to telestroke services,” added AHA President Steven Houser, PhD, in the release. “Evidence indicates that telestroke improves patient outcomes and reduces disability. However, nearly 94 percent of the strokes that occur in America take place in areas where telestroke is not paid for by Medicare.”

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