This year, the AARC PACT meeting to DC will be May 4-5, 2020. The AARC is directing us to advocate on several issues. For the past few years we’ve been advocating for one or possibly two pieces of legislation that include Respiratory Therapists. This year’s visit will be different. Recently, the focus of Congress has been to look at policies that improve the care delivered to individuals with multiple chronic conditions. In the next two TRACT issues, we will discuss and detail the issues we will be advocating for at this year’s Hill visit.
HR2508, Better Respiration Through Expanding Access to Telehealth Act or better known as The Breathe Act was our main focus in the last DC visit. The bill is a 3-year pilot that allows qualified RTs as telehealth practitioners to deliver certain Disease Management services to Medicare beneficiaries with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) via telehealth. Services would be limited to self-education management and training, demonstration and evaluation of proper inhaler techniques, smoking cessation and remote patient monitoring of respiratory physiologic data. RTs would work under the direct supervision of the physician and the physician would bill Medicare. The purpose is to give CMS the tools it needs to collect data that can demonstrate the value RTs bring to the health care system and their patients.
As of January 23rd, there are 45 Co-sponsors of this bill. We have 2 Co-sponsors in IL – Congressman Dan Lapinski (IL-3) and Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11). This is a House bill only at this time. In order for legislation to move forward, a companion bill would need to be sponsored in the Senate. At this time, the AARC feels that there is a better chance for provisions of the Breathe Act to become part of a different piece of legislation that currently has both a House and Senate bill.
HR4932/ S2471 – Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies or the Connect Act
This doesn’t mean we’re not continuing to ask for support in the House for the Breathe Act. The larger push in our May DC visit will be asking both the House and Senate congressional offices to support the Connect Act. Both these House and Senate bills are identical telehealth bills that were introduced on Oct 30, 2019. The Congressional Telehealth Working Group, comprised of both House and Senate members were instrumental in sponsoring this legislation. This bill calls for expansion of telehealth services in many areas. In recent updates received by the AARC, we’ve learned that, “Key among the provisions is section 14 that would allow health care professionals who are not currently eligible to furnish telehealth, such as respiratory therapists, to furnish telehealth services as part of the health care delivery models being tested by CMS’ Innovation Center.” The AARC feels that this may help to expand the settings where RTs can provide telehealth services to more than just a physician’s office, which is part of the Breathe Act. Another section of the Connect Act, Section 15, specifically encourage the creation of models of care using telehealth. This dovetails directly into what the Breathe Act is about – creating a 3 year pilot looking at qualified RTs to provide Disease Management services for individuals with COPD.
Furthermore, the AARC relayed to us that, “CMS’ November 2018 report to Congress on “Information on Medicare Telehealth” discussed telehealth as a key feature for case management of patients with chronic conditions and highlighted types of telehealth services that coincide with provisions of the BREATHE Act.”
These are two of the pieces of legislation that we will be very closely aligned with as we discuss the important role Respiratory Therapists can have in the Disease Management services for our patients in our congressional visits this May. In the next TRACT issue, we’ll continue to bring information to you on other issues we will be discussing in our upcoming visits.
We will let everyone know when the upcoming AARC Virtual Lobby Campaign will be where we’ll be asking everyone to spread the word so that you can send emails and make phone calls to your Congressional Representatives asking for their support of these bills and the other issues we’ll outline that affect our patients and our profession.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to advocate for our patients!
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