CHRONIC Act, which expands Medicare coverage for telemedicine, passes in Senate

By Jonah Comstock
Share

Senate Bill 870, the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017, or CHRONIC Act for short, has passed in the Senate by a unanimous vote. Among other things, the bill, which was originally introduced in April by Senator Orrin Hatch (R - Utah), includes provisions that would expand Medicare coverage for telemedicine.

Along with expanding telemedicine coverage under Medicare Advantage Plan B in 2020 and giving Accountable Care Organizations more freedom to use telemedicine, key provisions in the CHRONIC bill extend the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ home-based primary care teams for people with multiple chronic conditions. The bill would extend this “Independence at Home” demonstration to two years and increase the maximum allowable number of Medicare beneficiaries in the program from 10,000 to 15,000.

One proposal in the bill would allow a patient’s home dialysis facilities to count as a recognized originating site for telehealth visits. Another eliminates location restrictions on telestroke consultations.

“The Finance Committee has been working hard to address and improve healthcare outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions for the last two years,” Hatch said in a statement. “The CHRONIC Care Act is a culmination of a bipartisan, committee-wide effort, which included rigorous engagement and feedback from affected stakeholders. This legislation will improve disease management, lower Medicare costs and streamline care coordination services – all without adding to the deficit. Addressing these issues is critical for the increasing number of individuals who live with multiple chronic conditions and will age into the Medicare program over the next two decades. The CHRONIC Care Act is one of the few bipartisan healthcare bills to pass the Senate this Congress, and I urge my colleagues in the House to act quickly on this legislation and get it to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”

In the House, the various provisions of the bill have been presented as seperate pieces of legislation. HR 3727 is the bill that includes the telemedicine expansion under Medicare Advantage; it was approved by the House Ways and Means committee and now heads back to the floor. Similarly, HR 1148, which includes the telestroke provisions, has been approved by the House Energy & Commerce committee. Finally, the kidney dialysis provisions are contained in HR 3178, which the House passed back in July. Assuming all these measures pass, they can be unified with the Senate's CHRONIC Act in conference and head to the president's desk.