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Smith, Kuster, Thune, and Cardin Introduce Legislation to Increase Telehealth Services in Nursing Facilities

March 11, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today introduced companion versions of the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2020, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to facilitate greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities.   

“The RUSH Act brings needed innovation to Medicare, lifts burdensome regulations, and will ultimately benefit patients,” said Smith. “This legislation builds on new technologies and improved connectivity to use telehealth in skilled nursing facilities, allowing patients to be treated in place rather than transferring them to a hospital. This bipartisan bill will help transform rural health care and improve lives.”

“Unnecessary hospital stays can place a significant financial burden on providers and senior patients alike,” said Kuster. “The RUSH Act will reduce this burden, cut down on costs, and expand access to care in our rural communities through telehealth options – all while reducing the risk of patients contracting an infection in a hospital. I’m pleased to join my colleagues to introduce this commonsense legislation and I will continue working to improve health care delivery across the Granite State.”

“South Dakota has led the way in utilization of telehealth, and the RUSH Act acknowledges the success we have seen from using technology to coordinate care for seniors in nursing facilities,” said Thune. “By establishing a voluntary Medicare alternative payment model, the RUSH Act creates the right incentives for nursing facilities to work with a provider group to adopt telehealth to reduce avoidable emergency department visits.

“Greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities will benefit patients and doctors, reducing expensive and unnecessary hospital visits,” said Cardin. “I’m proud to be a partner on the bipartisan RUSH Act that will continue to increase the availability of telehealth through Medicare and help deliver better health outcomes across the country.”

The RUSH Act would allow Medicare to enter into voluntary, value-based arrangements with medical groups to provide acute care to patients in skilled nursing facilities using a combination of telehealth and on-site staff. Working together to coordinate care, the providers can avoid a more costly patient transfer to the emergency department. If the model generates savings, they would be shared between the medical group and the skilled nursing facility. While skilled nursing facilities with a star rating of less than three are eligible to participate in the model, they would not be eligible for shared savings until they successfully achieve a three-star rating. 

As further incentive to improve quality of care, facilities in the Medicare Special Focus Facility program would be ineligible to participate in the program. If the program does not save money over time, Medicare would be required to terminate it.