New Budget Deal Expands Telehealth Reimbursement

The Telehealth services industry has a new victory over a former foe—reimbursement barriers. The 2017 KLAS and CHIME research survey reports that half of the participating health organizations stated that reimbursement was a limitation and a barrier for their Telehealth programs. The latest groundbreaking legislation has removed that barrier.

After a five-hour government shutdown, President Trump signed a $400 billion budget deal into law on February 9, 2018. The budget deal expands the Telehealth reimbursement under the (CHRONIC) Care Act. This recent legislation will increase electronic interaction between healthcare providers and patients—providing more access to videoconferencing and remote technology.

Senator Brian Schatz commented about the new law on his Twitter account: “Tucked into the bill signed are the most significant changes ever made to Medicare law to use Telehealth. It will increase access and quality of care, and reduce costs using tech that’s already available.”

The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act opened doors for healthcare providers by lifting outdated restrictions that limited Medicare reimbursements for telehealth. Although the signed bill expands telehealth provisions specifically for the Medicare demographic, advocates say that it could impact future legislation. reports, “New data that will come out of expanded coverage in the Medicare Advantage program could be an important driver in furthering telehealth coverage across Medicare.”

What is Telehealth?

According to the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), “Telehealth is defined as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care.” The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) also defines telehealth as “the wide range of diagnosis and management, education, and other related fields of health care.”

Telehealth Technologies

The CCHP lists the different telehealth technologies below:

  • Live video: A two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or provider) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology.
  • Remote patient monitoring (RPM): The personal health and medical data collected from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted to a provider in a different location for use in care and related support.
  • Mobile health (mHealth): Healthcare and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones and tablet computers. Applications can range from targeted text messages that promote healthy behavior to wide-scale alerts about disease outbreaks, to name a few examples.
  • Store-and-forward: An asynchronous conversation when a patient sends a specialist or doctor X-rays, scanned documents or test results.

What are the Benefits of the Telehealth Expansion?

  • Reduced healthcare costs and increased efficiency.
  • Improved quality of care and accessibility for long-distance patients.
  • Allows health IT staff to be more responsive to patients.
  • Overall increased satisfaction due to reduced patient wait times with fast and easy remote communication.
  • Increased patient engagement through the use of modern technology.
  • Results in lower readmission rates and/or shorter hospital stays.

Considering the wide range of benefits from the telehealth expansion, it has received bipartisan support in Congress from both the Democratic and Republican party. As usual, both political parties have differences but have come together to provide Americans with better healthcare options.

“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want; it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has what the American people need,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, said in a statement.

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