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Medicare could become much more open to telehealth if legislation introduced in the Senate recently makes its way into law.

The proposal, supported by APTA, would expand where telehealth can take place, as well as which patients and providers can participate—including physical therapist (PTs) participating in some bundled payment models, accountable care organizations (ACOs), and Medicare Advantage plans.

Called the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (S. 1016), the bill introduced May 3 would ease or eliminate many current Medicare restrictions on telehealth coverage and give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to further expand provisions. The bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of 6 Senators: Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), John Thune (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Thad Cochran (R-MS). An earlier version of the bill was introduced in the 114th Congress.

Among the proposed changes contained in the bill: expanding telehealth in ACOs, Medicare Advantage, and stroke treatment programs; expanding remote monitoring programs for people with chronic conditions; defining reimbursable telehealth codes; and expanding remote patient monitoring programs at community health centers and rural clinics. APTA joined the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Medical Association, and other health care organizations in the list of supporters of the bill. 

"Telehealth is the future of health care. It expands access to care, lowers costs, and helps more people stay healthy," Sen Schatz said in a statement. "Our bipartisan bill will help change the way patients get the care they need, improving the health care system for both patients and health care providers."

A House of Representatives version of the bill is expected to be introduced in the coming months. APTA government affairs staff will continue to track the progress of the legislation.

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