Changes to telehealth reimbursement, Meaningful Use included in House short-term funding proposal

Washington, D.C. National Capitol Building
The House is scheduled to vote on a short-term spending package that includes telehealth expansion. (Getty/tupungato)

A short-term funding bill unveiled by the House of Representatives on Monday evening includes legislation that would expand telehealth for Medicare Advantage members and ease Meaningful Use requirements moving forward.

The continuing resolution comes just days before government funding is set to expire, which would trigger another partial shutdown. The bill (PDF) includes the popular CHRONIC Care Act, which expands telehealth benefits for Medicare Advantage members in 2020 and allows accountable care organizations to expand the use of telemedicine.

RELATED: House to vote Tuesday on short-term spending bill that includes funding for community health centers

The joint resolution would also expand access to stroke telemedicine services, allowing providers to be reimbursed for a neurological consult via telehealth. Both bills have received broad bipartisan support from lawmakers pushing to expand access to virtual services.

“For too long, Medicare has lagged behind other health payers in covering and reimbursing telehealth services,” Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said in a statement praising the bill. “These reforms are the beginning of a much-needed shift that will pay dividends in better healthcare outcomes and reduced costs.”

Lawmakers were expected to vote on the spending package on Tuesday that would also fund community health centers for two years. The House bill doesn't include protections for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has been a sticking point for Democrats.

“It’s way past time to fund these critical health care programs," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D., R-Texas, said in a release. "Quickly approaching yet another funding cliff, the House is once again acting to extend the necessary funding upon which these programs and patients rely. It was disappointing to see the Democrats play politics with funding for children’s health insurance and oppose our earlier efforts to fully fund community health centers. Now we call on them to join us in funding these programs, delivering care and certainty to patients across the country.”

Buried in the House legislation, which would extend funding until March 23, is a bill introduced by Burgess last year to ease Meaningful Use requirements. By striking portions of the HITECH Act, the legislation would prevent Meaningful Use requirements from becoming more stringent over time. Burgess has argued the requirements would led to more hardship exemptions and create additional burdens for the Department of Health and Human Services.