House Ways & Means Approves Medicare Related Bills

June 27, 2019
Health Policy

Last week the House Ways & Means Committee passed five Medicare-related bills, including legislation to expand coverage of telehealth services for mental health treatment, eliminate beneficiary cost-sharing for chronic care management services, and add 1,000 new residency slots under the Graduate Medical Education program. Here are some additional specifics:

  • H.R. 3414, the Opioid Workforce Act, would fund 1,000 new residency GME positions in the areas of addiction medicine and psychiatry over the next six years.
  • H.R. 3417, the BETTER Act, was approved unanimously. The package includes various Medicare proposals; one provision would expand Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services for mental health treatment by eliminating restrictions on originating sites so that beneficiaries can receive the services in their homes. Telehealth stakeholders, however, said the bill would nonetheless require an in-person visit before a beneficiary could receive telehealth services; they called for that requirement to be removed.

      Other key provisions in the BETTER Act include:

  1. Extending funding for the National Quality Forum and State Health Insurance Programs before funding expires
  2. Providing more outreach and education to people before they become eligible for Medicare
  3. Fixing a longstanding technical issue in existing law that, according to lawmakers, prevents some rural and community hospitals from establishing GME programs
  • H.R. 3436, the Improving Chronic Care Management Act, would eliminate the coinsurance paid by beneficiaries receiving chronic care management services. That benefit was created in 2015 and provides care coordination to people with two or more chronic conditions.
  • H.R. 3439, the Protecting Patient Access to Information for Effective and Necessary Treatment Act, would extend funding for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund through fiscal 2026. The bill contains the following provisions:
  1. Allowing injured veterans to retain coverage under TRICARE, the veterans’ health coverage program, without having to pay Medicare premiums
  2. Adding an ambulatory surgical center representative to the advisory panel on hospital outpatient payment
  3. Exempting accessories for certain wheelchairs from the competitive bidding program
  4. Codifying a delay in CMS’ direct supervision rule for critical access hospitals for two years

All five bills now move to the full House.