Washington – Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) applauded the passage of H.R. 3178, theMedicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017, a package of bipartisan Medicare reforms. The bill, which was reported out of the Committee on Ways and Means on July 11, 2017, was approved today by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives. H.R. 3178 included two provisions authored by Rep. Thompson:
- Expanding Access to Home Dialysis Therapy: Medicare does not reimburse for telehealth services delivered to patients suffering from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or kidney failure, at home. However, many of these beneficiaries often seek access to dialysis treatment in their own homes. Telehealth could allow for necessary visits and monitoring without expensive or difficult trips to a provider’s office. This bill allows beneficiaries with renal failure to use telehealth for home dialysis monitoring.
- Orthotist’s and Prosthetist’s Clinical Notes as Part of the Patient’s Medical Record: In some cases, the Medicare claims review process has led to payment denials for medically necessary prosthetics and orthotics. This provision allows prosthetists and orthotists—who evaluate and fit beneficiaries for orthotics and prosthetics—to submit additional evidence of medical necessity to support providers’ records.
“When you’re at your sickest or most vulnerable, you deserve access to the care and services you need without having to jump through hoops,” said Thompson. “Dialysis can be an uncomfortable, difficult procedure. Depending on where you live, it might be hard to find a treatment center nearby. My provision will allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive dialysis from the comfort of their own home while using cutting-edge telehealth services to monitor the procedure. Telehealth saves lives and cuts cost. This is a win-win for everyone.
“Likewise, patients in need of prosthetics or orthotics shouldn’t be delayed by unnecessary red tape. Reducing Medicare fraud is extremely important, and we can do so without jeopardizing the care beneficiaries need and deserve. I am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure we take care of the millions of men and women who rely on Medicare.”
The Medicare Part B Improvement Act also included provisions to improve access to home infusion therapy, extend a demonstration project for the treatment of critically ill patients at home, address an accreditation backlog of dialysis facilities, and clarify physician anti-kickback laws. The bill will be referred to the Senate for further consideration, where these provisions have similar bipartisan support.
Thompson spoke in support of the bill today on the House Floor. Text of his remarks as prepared and video are below.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this legislation.
Patients and providers in my District and across the country will benefit from these important improvements, and I’m proud to support them.
Two provisions come from bipartisan bills that I’ve worked on for several years.
The first helps patients get the devices they need, while keeping fraudulent providers out of Medicare.
The change we’re debating today will ensure that any documentation created by the device experts will be included in a patient’s medical record to support the physician’s directions.
The second provision that I authored comes from the comprehensive telehealth packages that I’ve been working on with Rep. Black and our colleagues on Energy & Commerce, Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).
This change will allow for virtual visits and remote patient monitoring for kidney failure patients living at home.
Letting these patients to utilize telehealth ensures that they can access the services they need from the setting they prefer: their homes.
This bill is another step forward in the expansion of telehealth, but we can do more.
And our telehealth bills offer a menu of options for moving forward: policies like paying for tele-stroke services, or adding telehealth to the Medicare Advantage program have bipartisan support among both our House and Senate colleagues, as well as a broad coalition of stakeholders.
And we know they won’t break the bank.
I’ve worked on telehealth for decades. When I was in the California State Senate, I wrote the state’s first telehealth legislation to bring critical services to folks enrolled in the state Medicaid program.
That was 1996. Now it’s 2017, and we still haven’t passed comprehensive telehealth legislation that would expand access for Medicare beneficiaries.
It’s long past time for Congress to come the conclusion that California reached long ago: telehealth saves money, and it saves lives.
I’m optimistic that the passage of this bill is just a small sample of what’s to come for telehealth.