The growth of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly opened new opportunities for patients to access vital health care services, particularly for those living in rural or medically underserved areas. ACCP endorsed the CONNECT for Health Act of 2023 to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make permanent COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to connect with their providers.
Click here today to tell Congress to pass this important bill!
Background: ACCP’s Advocacy to Advance Clinical Pharmacy Telehealth on Capitol Hill
Improved access to health care services through increased availability of remote health care delivery has proven especially beneficial to older adults and those living in rural, medically underserved locations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, use of telehealth increased dramatically as patients sought care without risking potential exposure. However, use of remote and telehealth care was increasing even before the pandemic because of factors such as increased access to affordable technology; demographic trends, including the aging population; the increasing burden of chronic illnesses; and the shortage of health professionals – especially in medically underserved and rural areas.
More insurers are now embracing remote health care delivery to reduce the cost of hospitalizations and emergency department visits. The goal of using remote health care delivery to prevent patients from entering more expensive health care settings has led the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and several commercial insurance companies to embrace reimbursement policies that incentivize the adoption of these services. As a result, in one study, patients with heart failure using the MedSentry remote drug monitoring system experienced an 80% reduction in the risk of all-cause hospitalization and length of stay compared with standard care. In another study, the average cost of a telehealth visit was $40–$50 compared with an in-person emergency department visit of $136–$176, translating to an estimated minimum payer savings of $126 per telehealth visit (J Am Coll Clin Pharm 2021;4:1492-501).
Tell Congress to Pass the CONNECT for Health Act of 2023!
Policymakers on Capitol Hill have been working on various legislative proposals to build on pandemic-era telehealth provisions, including permanently eliminating geographic and originating site waivers. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) led a bipartisan group of 60 senators in reintroducing the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. ACCP endorsed the CONNECT for Health Act and is calling on all ACCP members to get involved to support its passage through Congress.
This legislation is aimed at eliminating barriers to telehealth coverage by:
- Removing geographic requirements for telehealth services
- Expanding originating sites to include the patient’s home and other clinically appropriate sites
- Expanding the authority for practitioners eligible to furnish telehealth services
- Improving Medicare’s process to add telehealth services
- Permanently allowing federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to furnish telehealth services as distant site providers
- Removing restrictions for facilities of the Indian Health Service and Native Hawaiian Health Care
- Repealing the 6-month in-person visit requirement for telemental health services
- Permanently allowing for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 (2023 CAA) (Public Law 117-328), signed into law December 29, 2022, extended authorization through December 31, 2024, for certain key telehealth flexibilities established during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Although this fell short of making all PHE telehealth flexibilities permanent, the 2023 CAA decoupled or untied telehealth from the continued existence of the PHE. This is significant for the long-term future of telehealth as the PHE instituted during the pandemic unwinds. Click here for a comprehensive summary of telehealth flexibilities addressed in the CAA from ACCP’s colleagues at McDermott+Consulting.
Tell Congress to Establish Medicare Coverage for CMM Services!
Telehealth is just one of the many issues ACCP is currently advocating for on Capitol Hill. The College’s top advocacy priority is still to establish Medicare coverage for comprehensive clinical pharmacy services that optimize medication use for patients.
With the 118th Congress well underway and the 2024 presidential elections already on the horizon, there is a clear opportunity to raise ACCP’s profile on Capitol Hill by providing financial support to policymakers who work with the College to advance its issues. It is vital that ACCP support these friends on Capitol Hill in order to ensure that leaders remain in Washington to advance policies that meaningfully address the nation’s current health care issues.
Support ACCP-PAC in 2023
PAC contributions are a constitutionally protected part of the U.S. political system under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. ACCP-PAC is the only means through which the College can provide financial support for candidates for Congress. With its large membership, ACCP is in a position to become one of the most prominent pharmacy PACs in Washington. To accomplish this, the College needs the widespread support of its members. If each ACCP member contributed just $50, ACCP-PAC would instantly establish itself as the most powerful pharmacy PAC in the entire country. All ACCP members are asked to consider contributing at least $50 to ACCP-PAC. CLICK HERE to support your PAC today!