Legislation included as part of the massive congressional budget deal reached earlier this month will pave the way for expanded use of telehealth technologies that improve access to care and reduce cost of health care. Although telehealth services are in high demand from patients, providers’ adoption of telehealth has been limited because many payers, particularly Medicare, have historically placed tight restrictions on coverage of telehealth services.

The two-year budget deal, signed into law on February 9, 2018, includes passage of the Creating High Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017 (also referred to as the CHRONIC Act). The CHRONIC Act expands Medicare coverage and reimbursement of telehealth services provided to certain beneficiaries that signals a shift in policy supportive of telehealth. The Arent Fox Health Care team previously covered the CHRONIC Act in a May 17, 2017 Alert summarizing several recently-introduced or passed bills that ease federal health care programs’ restrictions on telehealth.

Currently, Medicare coverage of telehealth services is limited to certain Part B services furnished by a physician or practitioner via telehealth where (i) the patient is in a qualifying rural area; (ii) the patient is at one of eight qualifying facilities or originating sites; and (iii) the service is provided over real-time audio-video feed. The CHRONIC Act, however, expands the use of telehealth under Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as well as for end stage renal disease (ESRD) assessments and acute stroke treatments.