On Sept. 26, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017 (S.870). The bill, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in April, includes a section that expands the ability of Medicare beneficiaries on home dialysis to receive required monthly clinical assessments using telehealth, beginning in 2019.

“KCP applauds the Senate’s unanimous and bipartisan efforts to improve access to quality care and expand treatment choice for Americans living with chronic conditions like kidney disease,” said Frank Maddux, MD, chair of Kidney Care Partners.

The CHRONIC Care Act would expand the number of originating sites for monthly clinical assessments to include freestanding dialysis facilities and the patient’s home, and lift geographic restrictions, beginning in 2019. Home dialysis patients would be required to have a face-to-face assessment with a nephrologist at least once every three months.

“The CHRONIC Care Act is a culmination of a bipartisan, committee-wide effort, which included rigorous engagement and feedback from affected stakeholders. This legislation will improve disease management, lower Medicare costs and streamline care coordination services – all without adding to the deficit,” Hatch said in a statement.

The bill also extends the authority of Medicare Advantage Chronic Special Needs Plans (C-SNPs), extends a demonstration on home-based primary care for people with multiple chronic conditions, and eliminates geographic restrictions for stroke patients using telehealth.

Many provisions in the Senate bill are included in House bills, including the Medicare Part B Improvement Act, HR 3178, which passed the House in July and included a similar telehealth measure for home dialysis patients. HR 3178 also included a provision to give dialysis clinics the option to seek certification from an approved third party.

HR 3168, introduced in July, would reauthorize C-SNPs for five years.