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Senator Recommends Telehealth Amendments to SGR Repeal and Replace Bill

December 13, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Senator John Thune

Not long after the House of Representatives passed a three-month, temporary fix to the sustainable growth rate (SGR), the Senate Finance Committee verbally passed an SGR repeal and replace bill. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) further released a series of amendments he would like to see added to the repeal that employ the use of health information technology.

The Senate Finance bill, the SGR and Medicare Beneficiary Access Improvement Act, Thune said should include a number of provisions that protect rural healthcare providers and beneficiaries. He says he is concerned how rural providers will fare under the new, value-based reimbursement model.

Thune got the committee to include an amendment that would provide additional technical assistance to small rural practices in the Value-Based Performance (VBP) program.

An amendment that the committee has also already agreed to include would reduce hospital readmissions through telehealth. This would initiate a pilot program that would provide budget-neutral incentives for home health agencies and other agencies to include telehealth to better monitor Medicare beneficiaries, improve health outcomes, and reduce Medicare expenditures.

One of the amendments Thune recommends, which was included the Committee Chairman’s mark, would be a way to prevent telehealth barriers through alternative payment models. This would ensure that current restrictions in the Medicare program which, he says prohibits greater utilization of telehealth would be lifted for physicians who agree to participate in a reimbursement plan that places greater emphasis on care quality and coordination.




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