Recent Op-Eds

In a rural state like South Dakota, many residents live long distances away from specialized medical care. This distance can cause financial burdens on families who are forced to commute to and from their nearest health care provider. Worse yet, many senior citizens are forced to compromise living in the comfort of their homes in order to receive the health monitoring and treatment they need.

I recognize the inconvenience and difficulty that many rural patients are forced to endure in seeking specialized health care, and have recently reintroduced the Fostering Independence Through Technology (FITT) Act, which would expand the use of telehealth technology under Medicare in rural and other underserved communities across the nation.

My bipartisan legislation would create a pilot program to provide incentives for home health agencies across the country to use home monitoring and communications technologies to give seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries greater access to the care they need while enabling them to stay in their homes. This technology would give senior patients the ability to continue living in their homes, instead of a long-term care facility such as a nursing home.

In addition to lengthening a person's ability to stay in their homes in their later years of life, my legislation would help lower costs for patients and their families. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can often be a great expense, especially for those on fixed incomes. Telehealth technology, including remote sensor monitoring, increases the prevention aspect of health care, and allows for health problems to be identified in their early stages before greater, more costly problems develop.

Under the FITT Act, home health agencies participating in the pilot program would receive annual incentive payments based on a percentage of the Medicare savings achieved as a result of telehealth services. The incentive payments in the aggregate, however, may not exceed the amount that Medicare would have spent if the pilot projects had not been implemented. This would ensure that my legislation would not add to our nation's ever-increasing national debt.

I'm pleased to have worked with many industry stakeholders in developing this legislation over the past few years, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation through Congress.