The bipartisan PPS-endorsed CONNECT for Health Act (H.R.2556/S.1016) was included in the asks physical therapists took to Capitol Hill during the APTA Federal Advocacy Forum. S.1016 has 24 Senate cosponsors , but could have more. The leads of the Senate bill have decided to maintain an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the bill. At this time, a least one more Democrat has asked to be added as a cosponsor, but is being kept waiting until another Republican signs on; if one or both of your Senators is a Republican, please reach out and ask for them to cosponsor S.1016. The House companion bill added 7 more cosponsors since last month and now has 35 cosponsors -17 Republicans and 18 Democrats. While the bill addresses a number of ways telehealth can be used to increase access to care, the provision most significant to physical therapy would allow for any Medicare enrolled provider or supplier to be reimbursed for care provided via telehealth as long as the cost of that care is the same or less and has no negative impact on access to care or quality. The legislation also allows PTs to be reimbursed for telehealth if the care is provided as part of a bundled or global payment program.
Two provisions of the CONNECT for Health Act became law in February after they were included in the same legislation that repealed the therapy cap. The first provision allows for a patient to be assessed for stroke, using telehealth, regardless of the patient's geographic location (also known as the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine or "FAST" Act). The second provision allows Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to expand their basic benefit coverage to include reimbursement for telehealth services . However, before MA plans can start offering telehealth as a basic benefit at comparable rates to in-person services beginning in 2020 , CMS must solicit comments from stakeholders in order to determine what types of care and which services should be considered eligible for telehealth coverage.
ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITY #1
PPS intends to submit comments to CMS in support of including physical therapy as a type of care eligible for telehealth coverage as a MA plan basic benefit. Therefore, we are seeking to educate policy- makers and illustrate how physical therapists have used, or would use, technology in order to increase access to care for your patients. For example, what kind of therapy would you be able to provide via a video link or webcam setup? Please write up a short example and send it to your PPS Lobbyist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITY #2
Reach out to your Representatives and Senators to ask them to cosponsor the CONNECT for Health Act (H.R.2556/S.1016). This patient-centered policy will allow you to use technology to better serve your patients and your community. Please include the one-pager found at the Advocacy section at www.ppsapta.org with your outreach.
ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITY #3
Your Member of Congress is likely to be back in the district this week following Memorial Day. Please attend any town-hall or community meetings and introduce yourself to their staff. Beginning in July there will be more opportunities to engage with your legislator and their staff as they begin focusing on the general election. It is an election year so all seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate seats will be contested. Candidates who are seeking to join Congress are also looking for ways to engage with community leaders. Start off the election season by inviting all the candidates and their staff to visit your clinic for a tour to see not only physical therapy in action, but perhaps an opportunity for them to meet potential voters. Let us know how we can help with planning the visit.