Press Release

February 3, 2016
Cardin, Bipartisan Team of Senators Introduce Legislation to Expand Telehealth Services, Improve Health Outcomes, and Reduce Costs

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve care outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers, and help cut costs for patients and providers. 

“Greater use of technology to connect patients and doctors will benefit both with better outcomes, as well more timely and efficient use of resources,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “I’ve seen firsthand the positive value of telehealth and remote monitoring in Maryland that connects ICU patients with critical care staff based at larger medical centers. We have the technology today to promote the delivery of high quality care in an efficient and cost-effective way around the country. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this strong bipartisan effort to expand telehealth and remote patient monitoring services.”

“Telehealth is the future of health care.  It saves money and improves health outcomes,” said Senator Brian Schatz.  “Our bipartisan bill puts us on a path to transform health care delivery, making it less costly and more convenient for patients and providers.”

“Mississippi has long been on the cutting edge of health-care technologies,” Senator Roger Wicker said. “Connecting people with medical professionals through telehealth and remote patient monitoring provides quality and timely care, helps seniors manage their health, and delivers cost savings. This bill seeks to replicate the success that we have made in Mississippi using this technology for patients across the country.”

“I am proud that Mississippi is a national leader in telehealth.  We have improved access, cut costs and increased health care for patients in all corners of our State.  These achievements are possible because of our statewide telehealth reimbursement laws.  The legislation we are introducing will apply the lessons we’ve learned in Mississippi to the entire nation to improve patient access to health care providers and to save taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Thad Cochran. 

“Utilization of telehealth systems is crucial for many South Dakotans living in rural areas,” said Senator John Thune. “The CONNECT for Health Act will give patients more flexibility with their health care regardless of where they choose to reside.”

“Technology has enormous potential to transform the Medicare program,” said Senator Mark Warner.  “As Governor of Virginia, I saw up close how telehealth improved efficiency, access and outcomes in Medicaid. Moving forward, we should look for more ways to harness innovation and give Medicare providers more tools for delivering care. This bipartisan bill provides a strong starting point, building on the progress we’ve already made in Virginia, and includes strong quality metrics to give us a better sense of what works and what doesn’t as our healthcare system moves further into the 21st century.”

Telehealth is the provision of health care services via telecommunications technologies, such as live video interactions and asynchronous medical data transfers, like “store-and-forward technologies.”  Remote patient monitoring refers to personal medical data transmitted securely from an individual in one location via electronic communications technologies to a provider in a different location for the purposes of medical care.

According to studies, telehealth and remote patient monitoring have both been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction while reducing hospitalizations.  The CONNECT for Health Act is a bipartisan approach to increase the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring through Medicare. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Create a program to help providers meet the goals of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System through the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM);
  • Expand the use of RPM for certain patients with chronic conditions;
  • Increase telehealth and RPM services in community health centers and rural health clinics; and
  • Make telehealth and RPM basic benefits in Medicare Advantage.

“The AMA is pleased to support legislation that would accelerate the adoption of health care delivery models that promote coordinated and patient-centered care,” said Steven J. Stack, M.D., President of the American Medical Association.  “This bill would ensure that patients and their physicians are able to use new technologies that remove barriers to timely quality care.  Importantly, the bill would maintain high standards whether a patient is seeing a physician in an office or via telemedicine.  We look forward to working with other supporters to advance this legislation in Congress.”

“We salute the leadership and dedication Sen. Brian Schatz has shown in expanding the use of telemedicine in Medicare to increase quality healthcare options and availability at more affordable rates,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of American Telemedicine Association.  “It’s a clear ‘win-win’ for the American people and helps to bridge the 21st century technology gap between policy and better healthcare options.”

“The time, thought and coordination that went into drafting this bill shows,” said Krista Drobac, Executive Director of the Alliance for Connected Care.  “It is a consensus-based approach with support from groups across the spectrum.   It will result in meaningful change.”

The CONNECT for Health Act is supported more than 50 organizations including AARP, ACT | The App Association, Alliance for Connected Care, America’s Essential Hospitals, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Telemedicine Association, American Well, Anthem, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, The ERISA Industry Committee, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Healthcare Leadership Council, HIMSS, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, National Association of Community Health Centers, Personal Connected Health Alliance, Qualcomm, Third Way, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth, and the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth.

U.S. Representatives Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“As a registered nurse, I am proud to introduce the House companion to this critical legislation that will expand access to life-saving technologies for beneficiaries across the country, particularly those in rural communities like those found across my district. Medical innovation and technology is at the forefront of today’s health care system, and it is vital that the Medicare program embrace these advances to ensure quality, affordable care remains available to our nation’s seniors,” said Representative Diane Black.

“All Americans deserve access to quality, timely, and affordable health care, no matter where they live. Advancement in telemedicine technology is making that a reality, with patient health and safety at the forefront,” said Representative Peter Welch. “To ensure greater adoption of this technology, Congress must modernize the outdated policies governing this type of health care delivery. This bipartisan bill is crucial for the continued expansion of telehealth, which will significantly improve both access to care and cost-effective delivery of services, resulting in reduced health care costs and improved patient outcomes.”

“I applaud the bicameral and bipartisan work being done in both chambers of Congress to craft legislation that will help expand the use of telehealth technologies to better serve patients and save taxpayer dollars,” said Representative Gregg Harper. “Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring are incredibly promising technologies, but until we give providers the ability to transition and meet the goals set forth in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, Medicare patients will continue to struggle to take part in these advancements. This legislation will promote cost savings and will increase the quality of care in the Medicare program.”