RUSH Act Seeks to Improve Opportunities for Telehealth Services for SNFs

Legislation | August 01, 2018 | by Andrea Price-Carter

Prior to adjourning for the August Congressional recess, Members of the House of Representatives introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow qualified physician group practices to furnish telehealth services in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) under the Medicare program.

The Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalization Act (RUSH) Act of 2018, (H.R. 6502), introduced by Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Diane Black (R-TN), seeks to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations by allowing for the use of technology in SNFs, to treat patients in place rather than transferring them to the hospital. Specifically, the legislation allows the Medicare program to selectively enter into value-based arrangements with qualified physician group practices furnishing a combination of telehealth and on-site first responders. With a telehealth connection to an emergency physician, an on-site first responder equipped with mobile diagnostics would coordinate treatment for patients with acute care needs. The Department of Health and Human Services would also have the authority to determine the reimbursement level for these services. The anticipated savings will be shared between the physician group practice, Medicare, and SNFs.

The LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) applauds the sponsor’s efforts to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations by utilizing telehealth services and technology in SNFs. “It is encouraging to see that the bill would provide participating SNFs with a 12.5% share of the cost savings; it certainly is a step in the right direction,” said Majd Alwan, executive director of CAST and LeadingAge’s SVP of technology. “The bill could be improved by allowing urban SNFs, from where a large volume of hospital readmissions occur, to participate as originating sites,” he added. We are also committed to advocating that the bill would:

  • Encourage the use of two-way video conferencing for SNFs in urban areas;
  • Provide SNFs with an increased facility fee, that adequately covers the cost of having the technology and administering telehealth services;
  • Allow a “patient’s home” to be included as an eligible originating site; and
  • Expand eligibility of reimbursement to other long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) professionals that can administer chronic care management in the community using store-and-forward telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM).