WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. 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 reintroduced companion versions of the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2021, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to facilitate greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased and successful use of telehealth in health care settings of all varieties,” said Cardin. “Continued use and expansion of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities will benefit patients and doctors, while reducing expensive and unnecessary hospital visits where inappropriate. I’m proud to be a partner on the bipartisan RUSH Act that will continue to increase the availability of safe and effective telehealth through Medicare and help deliver better health outcomes across the country.”
“Following an unprecedented year of telehealth usage, it’s clear how essential this service is, especially in nursing facilities,” said Thune. “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.”
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services have been a lifeline for patients by eliminating the risk of transmission and preventing unnecessary hospital stays which can place a significant financial burden on providers and senior patients alike,” said 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 reintroduce this common-sense, bipartisan legislation and I will continue working to improve health care delivery across the Granite State.”
“In the past year, we have been reminded how crucial telehealth services are for rural communities,” said Smith. “The RUSH Act will help transform rural health care for seniors by allowing the use of new technologies and improved connectivity in skilled nursing facilities to enable appropriate treatment in place and eliminate unnecessary hospital transfers.”
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 program 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 program, 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.