The need to secure co-sponsors for bipartisan legislation that would advance the practice of telemedicine was among the advocacy priorities advanced by the American Medical Association (AMA) at its National Advocacy Conference.
The “Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act” has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the House. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is the sponsor of the Senate bill (S. 2484), and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) is the sponsor of the House bill (HR 4442).
The Connect for Health Act legislation seeks to:
- Allow telehealth and remote patient monitoring in alternative payment models.
- Increase telehealth services in community health centers and rural health clinics.
- Include telehealth services as basic benefits in Medicare Advantage.
- Preserve state-based licensure for physicians.
An independent study suggests that the bill could generate an estimated savings of $1.8 billion over 10 years.
While the CONNECT for Health Act is focused on increasing the use of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring of Medicare patients, its passage is also important as part of the strategy to protect the existing state-based licensure structure for physicians. The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) has joined the AMA in opposing legislation that would create a federal physician license or pre-empt the role of the state licensure boards.
PAMED’s Telehealth Initiatives in Pennsylvania
PAMED is also focused on the issue of telemedicine at the state level. The PAMED Board of Trustees approved draft legislation from PAMED’s Telehealth Task Force, which is aimed at addressing barriers to telemedicine in Pennsylvania and bringing clarity to the expanded use of telemedicine in the commonwealth.
The draft legislation includes provisions which address issues like licensure, professional liability coverage, participation eligibility and informed consent and privacy practices.
PAMED Past President Marilyn Heine, MD, chaired the task force which included representatives from a number of specialists and primary care physicians nominated by their state specialty society. The task force also sought feedback on the draft legislation from counties, specialties, and the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and other stakeholders. The draft legislation is currently being discussed by potential Senate and House sponsors.
Additionally, PAMED will be participating in an upcoming roundtable meeting regarding telehealth workforce strategies led by the Department of Health. The focus of the roundtable is to:
- Take a deeper dive into the existing telehealth infrastructure
- Identify barriers and strategies for telehealth implementation
- Begin to define and identify policy and regulatory levers to accelerate telehealth priorities.
PAMED has also established a Health IT Task Force to help guide PAMED activities related to health IT initiatives.