March 11, 2020

Cardin, Thune, Smith, Kuster Introduce Legislation to Increase Telehealth Services in Nursing Facilities

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), members of the Senate Finance Committee, and U.S. Reps. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) today introduced companion versions of the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2020, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to facilitate greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities.   

“Greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities will benefit patients and doctors, reducing expensive and unnecessary hospital visits,” said Senator 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.”

“South Dakota has led the way in utilization of telehealth, and the RUSH Act acknowledges the success we have seen from using technology to coordinate care for seniors in nursing facilities,” said Senator Thune. “By establishing a voluntary Medicare alternative payment model, the RUSH Act creates the right incentives for nursing facilities to work with a provider group to adopt telehealth to reduce avoidable emergency department visits.

“Unnecessary hospital stays can place a significant financial burden on providers and senior patients alike,” said Rep. Kuster. “The RUSH Act will reduce this burden, cut down on costs, and expand access to care in our rural communities through telehealth options – all while reducing the risk of patients contracting an infection in a hospital. I’m pleased to join my colleagues to introduce this commonsense legislation and I will continue working to improve health care delivery across the Granite State.”

“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.”

“Long-term care residents tend to be underserved when local providers aren’t able to respond to nursing home requests quickly enough to avoid an emergency room visit and possible hospital readmission,” said Joshua Hofmeyer, senior care officer of Avera eCARE. “Via telemedicine, local caregivers can have around-the-clock access to teams that specialize in geriatric medicine, providing urgent care, fall assessments, medication reviews, behavioral health services, medical directorship and more. We are greatly encouraged by the positive ways in which this legislation could positively impact the delivery of senior care services and improve access to quality and timely care.”

“We strongly support Senator Thune’s leadership and other sponsors for introducing the RUSH Act,” said Dan Holdhusen, director of government affairs for the Good Samaritan Society. “Its features will give needed recognition by the Medicare program to existing remote tele-health technologies to care for individuals that we serve in long-term care communities, especially in rural and frontier areas that we serve in South Dakota and other less populated parts of the country.

The RUSH Act 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. Working together to coordinate care, the providers can avoid a more costly patient transfer to the emergency department. If the model generates savings, they would be shared between the medical group and the skilled nursing facility. While skilled nursing facilities with a star rating of less than three are eligible to participate in the model, they would not be eligible for shared savings until they successfully achieve a three star rating. 

As further incentive to improve quality of care, facilities in the Medicare Special Focus Facility program would be ineligible to participate in the program. If the program does not save money over time, Medicare would be required to terminate it.

 

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