Peters, Gardner Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Telehealth Services

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, legislation that would expand access to health care in rural areas by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services. Currently, Medicare covers limited telehealth services, setting a poor industry standard, discouraging innovation, and restricting access to specialized services. 

“Telehealth has revolutionized healthcare, helping more patients receive life-saving treatment, and we must ensure that people living in rural areas have equal access to the care they need,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to join Senator Gardner in introducing this bipartisan, commonsense legislation that takes important steps to modernize Medicare, expand access to quality care for all seniors and improve patient outcomes.”

“People living in rural Colorado should have access to the same health care services as those living in urban areas,” said Gardner. “Telemedicine has the power to increase access to specialized services in underserved communities, and potentially lower costs and improve patient outcomes. The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would pave the way for Medicare to expand coverage to additional telehealth services, and potentially provide those living with life-threatening conditions in rural America with more opportunities and more options to receive the care they need. At the same time, this legislation would incentivize the industry to develop cutting edge technology that could revolutionize health care delivery. As we work toward a health care system that lowers costs and increases choices for consumers, it is important that we advance commonsense legislation like the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act to achieve those goals.”

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). Additionally, it 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. 

“Senator Gary Peters has taken the initiative to modernize Medicare policy for telehealth services. Health care delivery must become more patient-centered, more timely and more efficient. We need to take advantage of existing technology, and be ready for the next innovations, to improve service delivery and health outcomes for Michigan seniors,” said Brian Peters, Chief Executive Officer, Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA). 

“Telehealth services are a vital part of the rural healthcare delivery system. Munson Healthcare, a northern Michigan health system, strongly supports expanding access to these technologies making it easier for patients to connect with qualified medical providers and in some cases protecting patient health through reducing exposure to other patients for those with compromised immune systems,” said Ed Ness, President and CEO, Munson Healthcare.

“Sparrow is appreciative of Senator Peters work to expand the use of telehealth services. By expanding access to care patients, especially in rural areas, could experience better health outcomes.” said John A. Shaski, Government Relations Officer, Sparrow Health System.

“Telemedicine dramatically improves access to health care, which means patients are more likely to seek medical attention before a condition becomes unmanageable. Plus, telemedicine saves patients time and money,”  said Spectrum Health Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Doug Apple, MD.

During the last year, Spectrum Health‘s MedNow providers have successfully completed 3,800 secure email and video visits with patients.