Congress is revisiting a bill that seeks to extend Medicare reimbursement for telestroke services across the nation. Under the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act, Medicare would cover telestroke services regardless of the patient’s location; currently, coverage only encompasses specific rural areas.
The bipartisan bill, first introduced in 2015, is being reintroduced with the support of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Heart Association. As described by the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), telemedicine has proven its worth in combatting strokes—the country’s fifth leading cause of death.
AHA President Steven Houser, PhD, explained that almost 94 percent of strokes occur in areas beyond Medicare’s coverage. Telestroke saves precious minutes before treatment and has been shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce disability. Medicare coverage, he says, should be expanded to give more patients access to this level of care.
Terrence L. Cascino, MD, FAAN, President of the American Academy of Neurology, urged Congress to pass the bill by emphasizing the financial aspect: “Reimbursing for telestroke consultations under Medicare will dramatically increase the number of beneficiaries who have timely access to a neurologist, ultimately producing steep reductions in disability that should save the federal government money.”
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