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This Week in Connected Care:
Recent Developments and Clips

Week Ending May 22, 2020

The Alliance for Connected Care continues to maintain and update a COVID-19 website tracking guidance on telehealth and remote patient monitoring

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Alliance News

In the News: Executive Director Krista Drobac spoke on a Fierce Healthcare webinar & quoted related articleIn the past, one barrier to expanding telehealth access under Medicare was the lack of data proving its worth as patient adoption was low, Drobac said. With the spike in telehealth usage, policy leaders now have the data to make their case to Congress. "We’re going to need to have some sound arguments on Congressional Budget Office scoring, like how much money this is going to cost the federal government. We’re also going to need patients to speak up and we need good data from this period," Drobac said. She added, "All of this is needed to change Congressional minds for the long term."

    Federal Agency Telehealth Activity / Guidance

    Contract Year 2021 Medicare Advantage Program Changes: (5/22) – CMS issued a final rule which implements certain changes before the contact year 2021 bid deadline including giving MA plans more flexibility to count telehealth providers in certain specialty areas towards meeting CMS network adequacy standards. Press release: Fact sheet: Final rule:

    • Medicare Advantage (MA) and Cost Plan Network Adequacy Change: The final rule will allow MA plans to receive a 10-percentage point credit towards the percentage of beneficiaries residing within published time and distance standards when they contract with telehealth providers of specific specialty types. In line with feedback from the Alliance for Connected Care, the final rule expands the telehealth provider list – adding Ophthalmology, Allergy and Immunology, Nephrology, Primary Care, Gynecology/ OB/GYN, Endocrinology, and Infectious Diseases. Originally proposed were dermatology, psychiatry, cardiology, otolaryngology and neurology.

        Federal Communications Commission: (5/20) – FCC approved the seventh set of COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications, funding an additional 43 health care providers. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program has funded 132 health care providers in 33 states for a total of over $50 million in funding. List of funding recipients as of May 13.

        Congressional Research Services (CRS): (5/20) – CRS released a report which provides an overview of veterans’ access to VA telehealth services and highlights funding activities in the CARES Act and the Connected Care Pilot Program that aim to assist veterans with obtaining telehealth-related infrastructure during the pandemic.

          Congressional Activity and Legislation

          S. 3792: (5/21) – Sens. Smith (D-MN) and Murkowski (R-AK) introduced S. 3792, which would require parity in the coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services provided to enrollees in private insurance plans, whether such services are provided in-person or through telehealth. We are tracking this bill and others on our Telehealth Legislation page.

          Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act (S. 3838): (5/21) – Sens Schatz (D-HI), Murkowski (R-AK) and six bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Health Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act (S. 3838), which would provide for the expansion of the Rural Health Care Program of the Federal Communications Commission in response to COVID-19, and for other purposes. Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) and twenty-five bipartisan cosponsors previously introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 6474). We are tracking this bill and others on our Telehealth Legislation page.

          Telemental Health Letter: (5/21) – Reps. Emmer (R-MN) and Tonko (D-NY) led 31 bipartisan Representatives in a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell requesting that Congress consider extending the mental telehealth services provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. View the press release here.

              News and Reports

              Business Insider: (5/18) – "There's been a paradigm shift in the last three months of where telehealth policy is and where it's heading," said Sarah-Lloyd Stevenson, a former Senate GOP staffer. While relaxed regulations and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to widespread adoption of telehealth, fraud concerns and the extent to which those will exist are still very much unknown.

              Fierce Healthcare: (5/18) – An industry voices article calls for states to ensure broad access to telehealth services for Medicaid enrollees during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the need for state funding to do so. The article also highlights the Modernized Medicine Act (H.R. 6538), which would increase the federal Medicaid reimbursement to states by 1% during the PHE. The Alliance previously flagged this legislation on our Telehealth Legislation page.

              mHealthIntelligence: (5/18) – The Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of five bills aimed at expanding telehealth and remote patient monitoring in the state, including mandating Medicaid coverage for services delivered in the home and school.

              mHealthIntelligence: (5/18) – COVID-19 has given patients and providers the push they needed to adopt telehealth technologies. Lessons learned during this crisis will likely shape health systems and hospitals use of connected health strategies beyond the crisis.

              Modern Healthcare: (5/19) – FCC Chairman Pai reassured lawmakers during a House Energy & Commerce Committee, Communications and Technology Subcommittee forum that supporting telemedicine access during the COVID-19 pandemic is a “top commission priority.” 

              Medical Economics: (5/19) – In a poll of more than 1,000 practice leaders, 89 percent surveyed indicated they were taking in-person appointments. Many practice leaders reported that their providers were still predominantly handling telehealth appointments.

              Healthcare Dive: (5/20) - Microsoft is launching its first industry-specific cloud offering in healthcare called Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. The service will help providers with telehealth, care management and patient engagement through apps, including using Azure's IoT to upload continuous monitoring data collected by patients' medical devices directly to the cloud.

              The Hill: (5/21) – U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday that the U.S. is now better prepared to reopen and has more tools to fight the virus than it did a few weeks ago. The expansion of telehealth could have a lasting impact, Adams said. 

              Healthcare IT News: (5/21) – Chinatown Service Center of Los Angeles, a FQHC, converted 80% of acute in-person visits to telehealth in just a few weeks. In addition, the clinics improved timely access to hospital emergency room and hospitalization records at participating hospitals in L.A. county by roughly 75%.

              Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts: (5/21) – Blue Cross announced that it has processed more than one million telehealth claims in the nine weeks since changing its policy to expand coverage for telephone and virtual visits at no cost. Blue Cross noted that nearly half the telehealth visits since the crisis began have been for mental health services, including psychotherapy.

              Upcoming Events 

              June 4 – Bipartisan Policy Center, “Telehealth and COVID-19 in Rural AreasWebinar

              June 9 – AHRQ, “A National Web Conference on the Role of Telehealth to Increase Access to Care and Improve Healthcare Quality.” Webinar

              Event Recordings 

              Please send any news or events to for inclusion in this newsletter.

                  “CMS’s rapid changes to telehealth are a godsend to patients and providers and allows people to be treated in the safety of their home.  The changes we are making will help make telehealth more widely available in Medicare Advantage and are part of larger efforts to advance telehealth.”
                  CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

                  “That’s something that I hope doesn’t go away."
                  Surgeon General Jerome Adams, speaking about expanded telehealth. 

                  "Based on our experience during this emergency, we observed how important it is to have policies that encourage the widespread availability of telehealth services at all times." 
                  - CMS Regulation

                  "Let's work together across agencies and across branches of government to make sure telehealth's promise is released." 
                  FCC Chairman Pai, during House Testimony in which he called on other federal agencies to support telemedicine adoption, such as by reducing state licensing restrictions and reimbursement barriers.

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