Health IT Now: CMS Report on Telehealth in Medicare Highlights Need for the RUSH Act

WASHINGTON, DC (November 16, 2018): Health IT Now - a broad-based coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers, and payers supporting the use of data and health information technology to improve healthcare - responded today to a report to Congress from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the use of telehealth in Medicare. The study's findings support the need for passage of the bipartisan, Health IT Now-endorsed Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2018 (HR 6502). 

The CMS report includes a discussion of Medicare populations in long-term care facilities (LTC), which cites a 2014 study published in Health Affairs showing that a nursing home with an average of 180 hospitalizations per year could expect to see a statistically significant annual reduction of about 15.1 hospitalizations from engaging more heavily with telehealth. The study concluded that the average savings to Medicare would be $151,000 per nursing home per year for the facilities using more telehealth services. 

CMS noted that the 2014 study also found, "Emerging evidence that shows that providing telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries in long-term care facilities or at home may decrease hospitalizations and readmissions ... these benefits may also be associated with significant cost savings to Medicare as beneficiaries avoid costly hospitalizations and [emergency department] visits."

Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White released the following statement on the CMS report: 

"In this report, CMS makes the case for passage of the bipartisan, Health IT Now-endorsed RUSH Act better than we ever could ourselves. Now, the agency should put its findings into action by joining us in calling for swift passage of this sorely needed legislation during the current 'lame-duck' session. A growing chorus of lawmakers have already offered up the bill - which enjoys support from respected patient organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation - for possible year-end consideration, and we intend to see it happen. Presented with clear findings directly from CMS, lawmakers should have no reason to dither on advancing this worthy solution," said Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White. 

Introduced earlier this year, the RUSH Act would allow Medicare to selectively enter into value-based arrangements with innovative medical groups to provide acute care at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) using a combination of a telehealth connection to an emergency physician and on-site first responders. Current sponsors include Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Diane Black (R-TN), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Anna Eshoo (D-CA). 

Since introduction, the bill was part of a September 2018 Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing and, most recently, the subject of a national op-ed from Rep. Black - a registered nurse and founder of the Congressional Telehealth Caucus.

Health IT Now has ramped up its presence on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, meeting with lawmakers and staff to urge passage of the bill during the lame-duck session.