Bipartisan bills in House, Senate seek to increase telehealth in nursing homes
The Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2020, bipartisan legislation introduced in both the House and Senate, aims to enable more widespread use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities.
WHY IT MATTERS
The RUSH Act – introduced in companion bills from Sens. John Thune, R-South Dakota, and Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and from Reps. Adrian Smith, R-Nebraska, and Ann Kuster, D-New Hampshire – would allow Medicare to enter into voluntary, value-based arrangements with medical groups to provide acute care to patients in skilled nursing facilities using a combination of telehealth and on-site staff.
The aim, say the bills' sponsors, is to enable better care coordination and avoid more costly patient transfer to hospital emergency departments.
If the model generates savings, they would be shared between the medical group and the skilled nursing facility, according to the legislation. Skilled nursing facilities with a star rating of less than three would be eligible to participate in the model, but would not be eligible for shared savings until they successfully achieve a three-star rating.
Facilities in the Medicare Special Focus Facility program would be ineligible to participate; if the program is shown not to save money over time, Medicare would be required to end it.
THE LARGER TREND
The critical value of telehealth is evident as the coronavirus spreads worldwide. Earlier this month, after urging from the American Telemedicine Association, HIMSS and other groups, Congress voted to waive some restrictions for Medicare telehealth coverage as part of its new COVID-19 supplemental funding package. As hospitals prepare themselves to be overwhelmed by a surge of new coronavirus cases, any technology enabling remote care can help.
THE LARGER TREND
"Greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities will benefit patients and doctors, reducing expensive and unnecessary hospital visits,” said Sen. Cardin. “I’m proud to be a partner on the bipartisan RUSH Act that will continue to increase the availability of telehealth through Medicare and help deliver better health outcomes across the country.”
"The RUSH Act brings needed innovation to Medicare, lifts burdensome regulations, and will ultimately benefit patients,” said Rep. Smith. “This legislation builds on new technologies and improved connectivity to use telehealth in skilled nursing facilities, allowing patients to be treated in place rather than transferring them to a hospital. This bipartisan bill will help transform rural health care and improve lives."
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