On July 30, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), members of the Senate Finance Committee, and Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) reintroduced companion versions of the Reducing Unnecessary Senior Hospitalizations (RUSH) Act of 2021, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to facilitate greater use of telehealth in skilled nursing facilities.

Context

The COVID-19 pandemic has established the importance of technology utilization in coordinating care for seniors in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The legislation builds on new technologies and connectivity that can advance telehealth in skilled nursing facilities and allow for patients to be treated in place rather than being transferred to a hospital.

The legislation

The RUSH Act of 2021 will allow Medicare to enter into voluntary value-based arrangements with medical groups to provide acute care in SNFs using telehealth and on-site staff. Any generated savings will be shared between the medical groups and the facilities.

The legislation will provide an alternative model that can incentivize SNFs to adopt telehealth and improve both clinical outcomes and quality of life for seniors living in SNFs. By adopting telehealth, medical groups and facilities can work together to ensure timely treatments to reduce costly hospitalizations.

According to U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), the legislation aims to bring much needed innovation to Medicare by lifting burdensome regulations and ultimately delivering benefits to patients.

With COVID-19 back on the rise in many states, the legislation will expand access to care in rural and frontier areas and reduce the risks of contracting an infection in a hospital.

Who is eligible?

– Facilities with a star rating of less than three will be eligible to participate in the program, but they won’t be eligible for the shared savings until they achieve a three-star rating.

– As further incentive to improve quality of care, facilities currently participating in the Medicare Special Focus Facility program won’t be eligible to participate in this program.

– If the program does not generate any savings over time, Medicare would be required to terminate the program.