Today, Senators Schatz (D-HI), Wicker (R-MS), Cardin (D-MD), Thune (R-SD), Warner (D-VA) and Hyde-Smith (R-MS) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019. The CONNECT Act would expand the use of telehealth services with Medicare. This will be the third attempt to pass this particular legislation as the CONNECT for Health Act was initially introduced in 2016 and again in 2017 but both times it did not pass Congress.
Currently, Medicare limits the use of telehealth to certain services, providers, technology and patient locations. For example, Medicare limits the location where the patient can be during a telehealth visit (also known as originating site) to only eight facilities, including provider offices, hospitals, crucial access hospitals, rural health clinics (RHCs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), skilled nursing facilities, community mental health centers or hospital-based renal dialysis centers. Notably, a patient’s home is not one of the eight eligible sites. Furthermore, the eight above mentioned sites must be either located in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or in a county that is outside any Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). These requirements restrict the impact that telehealth can have to Medicare beneficiaries given its narrow scope.
The CONNECT Act of 2019 seeks to address both of these restrictions. For mental health services delivered via telehealth, the Act aims to add the home to the list of eight eligible originating sites. It also seeks to remove the geographic restrictions on all originating site locations and FQHCs, RHCs, and Indian Health Service facilities. Additionally, the geographic restrictions would be lifted for hospitals, critical access hospitals, or skilled nursing facilities for the use of telehealth in emergency medical care services.
Overall, the CONNECT Act would greatly expand the reach of telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries. Given the nature of the Medicare population, having to travel to one of the eight eligible originating sites to receive telehealth services may not be feasible. In many cases, when faced with this barrier, individuals often delay care. However, if Medicare beneficiaries are able to receive services, such as telemental health, within the comfort of their own home, access to care will be significantly increased.
The CONNECT Act proposals to improve the telehealth
InSight supports the proposed changes within the CONNECT Act and has become an endorsing organization on this bill, joining over 120 other organizations including the American Psychiatric Association, American Telemedicine Association and National Council for Behavioral Health. InSight is a tireless advocate for telehealth legislation that works to expand access to quality behavioral health care to underserved communities and populations. Through the CONNECT Act, Medicare beneficiaries stand to benefit from increased access to needed telehealth and telemental health services.
About InSight Telepsychiatry
InSight is the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with a mission to increase access to quality behavioral health care through innovative applications of technology. InSight has over two decades of telepsychiatry experience and serves hundreds of organizations across the country with its on-demand, scheduled services and Inpathy divisions. InSight is uniquely positioned to offer scalable telepsychiatry services in settings across the continuum of care. InSight has a diverse team of psychiatry providers, a robust internal infrastructure and a history of adapting its programs to fit the needs of a variety of different settings and populations. InSight has led the growth of the telepsychiatry industry and remains an industry thought leader and advocate. To learn more about telepsychiatry and how it can benefit you or your organization, visit www.InSightTelepsychiatry.com.
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