Recently, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. The CONNECT for Health Act would expand telehealth and remote patient monitoring (“RPM”) services available under Medicare, improve patient health outcomes, facilitate patients’ ability to connect with their doctors, and implement cost-effective solutions for patients and providers.
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The Social Security Act currently limits access to telehealth and RPM services available under Medicare. A variety of arcane restrictions limit patients' eligibility for telehealth services based on, for example, whether they live in a rural county. Other restrictions include payment reimbursement requirements for healthcare and insurance providers that limit access to telehealth and RPM coverage. The current system often arbitrarily denies telehealth coverage and restricts life-changing access for some of the most vulnerable beneficiaries.
The CONNECT for Health Act would remove most of the current restrictions on telehealth access, thereby promoting patient access to critical, cost-effective, and potentially life-saving care. Most importantly, the CONNECT for Health Act explicitly expands access to telestroke care to all Medicare beneficiaries. Access to telestroke is a crucial component of stroke prevention and recovery. The abundance of research into acute stroke treatment protocols is clear that fast diagnosis and treatment are critical to improving health outcomes and minimizing post-stroke disabilities.
However, a number of barriers prevent timely and accurate diagnosis and treatment of stroke. These include long distances and travel times to comprehensive stroke centers, the unavailability of timely access to stroke specialists, and diagnostic delays within emergency departments. Many Medicare beneficiaries cannot receive effective emergency stroke treatment without the use of telemedicine.
The CONNECT for Health Act would greatly increase access to telehealth and RPM under Medicare while simultaneously reducing the negative impacts of stroke, especially for residents in rural and medically underserved areas, and promoting significant cost savings within the healthcare system.
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