CHRONIC Care Act Portends Promise for Resource-Strained Providers

By Zach Donisch, Director, AEHIS, AEHIT, AEHIA Membership

With the help of Leslie Krigstein, CHIME’s vice president of Congressional Affairs and Mari Savickis, CHIME’s vice president of federal affairs, AEHIT made its first forays into public policy in 2017. With support from the AEHIT Board, CHIME and AEHIT voiced their support a Senate bill put forth by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). After lying dormant for some time on the legislative agenda, the CHRONIC Care Act recently passed the Senate in late September and has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

Co-sponsored by 18 notable senators on both sides of the aisle, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the telehealth bill expands treatment modalities for seniors and the chronically ill, allowing for additional flexibility and incentives for delivering care in-home. In a statement on Sept. 27 following the passage of the bill in the Senate, Hatch noted: “The CHRONIC Care Act is a culmination of a bipartisan, committee-wide effort, which included rigorous engagement and feedback from affected stakeholders.” AEHIT and CHIME’s statement was among that group of stakeholders and affirmed support for the bill. The statement contends that “opportunities exist to enhance care delivery by modernizing federal policies to enable existing technology to augment the current care delivery paradigm.”

Michael Jefferies, CHIME member and CIO of Boulder Community Health, provided his take on the nation-wide impact of the CHRONIC Care act. “Fortunately, the CHRONIC Care Act moves us forward with provisions that have bipartisan support and recognize the potential to use technology to lower costs and improve the health of our citizens. This legislation is especially important to the wide population of mid-size, rural, and critical access healthcare providers who serve patients who may not be able to easily access their providers face-to-face.”

Furthering Jefferies’ point is the U.S. healthcare system’s limited ability to adapt and amend policies to keep pace with advances in healthcare technology. While larger hospital systems can more easily invest in advanced technologies, smaller providers struggle to keep up. According to the National Rural Health Association, rural hospitals serve 62 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the U.S. population. Often, they serve a disproportionate amount of the elderly or uninsured. However, in the last seven years 82 rural hospitals shut down, straining already limited treatment options for millions of Americans. AEHIT, CHIME and others have identified the CHRONIC Care Act and its advances in telehealth policy and improved connectivity and technology as a strong solution to the limited resources allotted to rural healthcare organizations.

Jefferies identifies the true boon for smaller, struggling providers, writing “the CHRONIC Care Act makes incremental provisions for reimbursement of [telehealth] services which are important to allow providers to use technology to drive down costs and improve the health of their populations.”

Through AEHIT’s public policy team in Washington D.C. and engaged and passionate members, AEHIT will continue supporting legislation that safely expands the availability of healthcare technology to additional patients in a variety of settings. If you’re interested in getting involved and engaged with AEHIT’s growing public policy efforts, email [email protected].

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