#AARCLobby | Get Ready to TAKE ACTION

 Published: February 5, 2020

By: Heather Willden


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Our first #AARCLobby TAKE ACTION campaign for 2020 kicks off Monday, Feb. 10 and runs through Friday, Feb. 14. Now is the time to contact your elected officials regarding the CONNECT Act and SMART Act.

Telehealth is Still a Priority

The House and Senate have introduced identical versions of the CONNECT (Creating Opportunities Now for New and Effective Care Technologies) for Health Act (H.R. 4932/S. 2741) that are bipartisan with the support of AARC and over 120 organizations. The legislation allows RTs to provide telehealth services as part of the health care delivery models being tested by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center. The CONNECT Act also encourages CMS to test new telehealth models, which could translate into a model that includes provisions of the BREATHE Act (H.R. 2508) that focus on chronic disease management services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries by RTs as telehealth practitioners.

The original co-sponsors of the BREATHE Act were pleased to have language allowing RTs to furnish telehealth services included in the CONNECT Act as a direct result of the strong bipartisan support for the BREATHE Act. However, we have learned that the Senate favors the CONNECT Act over introducing a companion bill to the BREATHE Act. Since the House and Senate bills have strong support from a large group of stakeholders, in addition to the Congressional Telehealth Caucus, it is the telehealth legislation with the strongest chance of advancing this year. Co-sponsors of the BREATHE Act also support efforts to gain co-sponsorship for the House and Senate CONNECT Act, so we will shift our attention to that legislation in advocating for RTs as telehealth practitioners.

Adding Noninvasive Ventilators to Competitive Bidding is a Bad Idea

Are you aware that the Medicare program is threatening to severely compromise the ability of RTs to provide care management to individuals who rely on noninvasive ventilation in the home to keep them out of the hospital by adding these life-sustaining devices to the competitive bidding program next year? AARC and other stakeholders have been instrumental in the introduction of H.R. 4945, the Safeguarding Medicare Access to Respiratory Therapy (SMART) Act to keep noninvasive ventilators out of competitive bidding for five years and require CMS to revise its outdated coverage policies that do not recognize the advancement in technologies and which have resulted in a substantial increase in use over the past few years.

CMS says adding noninvasive ventilators to competitive bidding is necessary because it is the second most costly item of durable medical equipment (DME) behind oxygen. Further, revisions to existing coverage policies are on hold until the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes a final technical assessment on home mechanical ventilation, which is expected the first half of the year. While CMS maintains they have safeguards in place, the pulmonary community and other stakeholders disagree and believe patient access to the devices and clinical support provided by RTs will be severely compromised because lower payment rates will not be adequate for home medical equipment providers to cover the cost of care. Since competitive bidding is set to begin in January 2021, it is critical for Congress to act quickly and include the SMART ACT in any health legislation being considered.


Take part in the AARC’s Advocacy Campaign starting on Monday by sharing your thoughts on these topics with your elected officials.

Email newsroom@aarc.org with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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