Bill marries respiratory therapy, telehealth to improve care

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Friday, May 10, 2019

WASHINGTON – A bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives would elevate the role of registered respiratory therapists—a recognition that is “long overdue,” says the American Association for Respiratory Care.

H.R. 2508, known as The BREATHE Act, would establish a three-year pilot program allowing RTs, under the supervision of a physician,to provide certain telehealth services to beneficiaries with COPD.

"The AARC is very excited with the introduction of the BREATHE Act,” said Anne Marie Hummel, associate executive director for advocacy and government affairs for the AARC. “Recognition of respiratory therapists by Medicare is long overdue.”

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., TJ Cox, D-Calif., Earl Carter, R-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa., introduced the bill on May 2.

To best leverage the pilot, Medicare should create a modifier or establish some other way to identify a claim as one in which an RT provided the service, says Hummel.

“We believe the skill set and expertise of respiratory therapists as telehealth practitioners can go a long way to teach Medicare beneficiaries with COPD the triggers and symptoms of their disease through self-management education and training and to reduce costly acute care interventions,” she said.“This would give CMS the tools it needs to help demonstrate the value of RTs by tracking claims data to see if there are improved outcomes and lower costs to the program.”

The AARC has been working for more than a year to get the bill introduced. In April, the AARC hosted a lobbying day that resulted in 326 meetings on Capitol Hill. The association is currently crafting a Congressional sign-on letter to support its efforts and identifying possible sponsors to introduce a Senate companion bill.