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Peters Discusses Need for Telehealth Services During Visit to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today visited Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids to discuss his bipartisan Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, legislation that would expand access to health care by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services. Last year, Spectrum Health launched a telehealth service called MedNow, which allows patients to virtually visit with a health care professional. Spectrum has completed 4,500 secure email and video visits with patients in Michigan. Peters was joined by Spectrum Health, Priority Health and MedNow executives and physicians.

“Telehealth services provide innovative and affordable ways for patients to receive life-saving medical care or treatment for chronic conditions, but unfortunately the advantages telemedicine can offer to seniors are drastically undercut by current Medicare rules," said Senator Peters. “My legislation will help modernize Medicare and expand access to telehealth services so that providers like Spectrum Health can continue providing quality care for seniors across Michigan.” 

“By offering on-demand care for colds, rashes and other conditions as well as specialty consultations for diabetes, heart disease and more, MedNow is one way Spectrum Health works to make health care more accessible and affordable,” said Spectrum Health Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Doug Apple, MD. “We applaud Senator Peters’ efforts to expand telemedicine services through Medicare, which will improve the health of Michigan residents.”

Currently, Medicare covers limited telehealth services, setting a poor industry standard, discouraging innovation and restricting access to specialized services for millions of Medicare patients. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). It also directs CMMI to review and independently evaluate telehealth models for cost, effectiveness and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of delivery. If the telehealth model meets this criteria, then the model will be covered through the greater Medicare program. 

 Peters introduced the bipartisan legislation with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) in December. The legislation is supported by the Michigan Hospital Association, Spectrum Health Medical Group, Munson Healthcare, Sparrow Health System, AdvaMed and Medtronic.