Medicare Telehealth Bill Introduced

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have introduced legislation to expand Medicare payments for telehealth services. The Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act (S. 2484) would expand the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring services in Medicare. The bill already has bipartisan support from members Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). The bill also has the support of Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who has said that he would help ensure that future spending on telehealth programs was as generous as possible. A possible vehicle for the bill could be found in the Senate Finance Committee’s effort on chronic care. The House telehealth companion measure (H.R. 4442) has the support of Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).

Third ACA Enrollment Period Closes

The Obama administration announced that approximately 12.7 million people signed up for insurance through the exchanges this year, including four million new enrollees, up from the 11.7 million people who signed up in 2015. The average consumer had over 10 insurers to choose from in picking a plan. The third open enrollment period for health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) closed on January 31, the first time an open enrollment period has ended on time. The administration’s goal for this year’s enrolment period was between 11 million and 14.1 million sign-ups. Congressional budget analysts predicted that 13 million people would enroll in plans this year. Adults who remain uninsured in 2016 will face a fine the greater of $695 per person or 2.5 percent of household income.

Changes to Cadillac Tax Proposed in President’s Budget

The President’s budget will include a proposal to scale back the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The proposal would raise the threshold at which plans are subject to the tax in states with higher health care costs. This would reduce the tax rate in places where care is particularly expensive, reflexing regional differences in the cost of practicing medicine. This would, in effect, result in fewer employers paying the tax. Details of the plan will be released in the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal on Tuesday.

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