ACO bill's telehealth, skilled nursing provisions a 'positive step,' groups say

A bill aimed at improving Medicare's accountable care organizations shows promise for its inclusion of pro-telehealth provisions, according to two healthcare groups.

The ACO Improvement Act of 2016, introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) on Wednesday, would reduce some of the restrictions on telehealth including site-of-service requirements. The legislation also would offer ACOs a waiver of the three-day stay rule for skilled nursing coverage.

Donald Fisher, Ph.D., CAE, president and CEO of the American Medical Group Association, said the bill's provisions are a “positive step that will improve the long term viability of the [Medicare Shared Savings Program],” in a statement released Wednesday.

CAPG, an association for accountable physician groups, echoed AMGA's sentiments in their own statement published Thursday, hailing the bipartisan bill as building a “solid foundation” for providers to transition from fee-for-service to lower cost, coordinated care.

“The bill provides the necessary financial incentives and tools to ensure ACOs can both thrive and improve their ability to manage population health,” said CAPG President and CEO Donald Crane. “We look forward to helping advance this legislation toward passage.”

Black and Welch's bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce committee.