AARC Virtual Lobby Campaign

H.R. 2508, the Better Respiration through Expanding Access to Tele-Health Act, (the BREATHE Act)

As a follow-up up to a very successful Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill April 9, 2019, and our previous Virtual Lobby Campaigns in which we set new records both in the number of advocates who participated and the number of messages sent to the Hill, we are excited to continue advocacy for our bill which was officially introduced in Congress on May 2, 2019 by Representative Mike Thompson (D/CA) and three co-sponsors — Representatives TJ Cox (D/CA), Mike Kelly (R/PA) and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R/GA).

To recap, this legislation is a 3-year pilot that allows respiratory therapists to furnish disease management services, such as self-management education and training, demonstration/evaluation of proper inhaler techniques, smoking cessation and remote patient monitoring to Medicare beneficiaries with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Its purpose is to demonstrate the value RTs bring to the health care system and their patients through improved health outcomes and lower costs and to identify RTs as telehealth practitioners in the Medicare statute.

So How Can You Help?

Ask Your Representative to Co-Sponsor the BREATHE Act, H.R. 2508.

We have drafted messages for respiratory therapists, RT students and supporters of the respiratory care profession to send to their members, but we encourage you to personalize the message because it will have the most impact. Some examples include adding the name of your facility or educational institution, the type of setting in which you work, why the bill is important to you, how it can help your patients, etc. It only takes a few minutes to edit and can increase our changes of gaining new co-sponsors.

Our Background Paper and copy of H.R. 2508 provide additional information. In addition, 16 national organizations sent a letter expressing their support for H.R. 2508 to all members of the House of Representatives.

Frequently Asked Questions about H.R. 2508, the BREATHE Act

Why is the BREATHE Act limited to only disease management services for Medicare beneficiaries with COPD?

We have limited the scope in order to reduce the chances of a high cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office whose job is to determine costs to the Medicare program.

Why are the qualifications of the RT limited to the RRT credential and a BS degree in a biologic or health science?

Non-physician health professionals recognized by the Medicare statute as qualified telehealth practitioners such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and others must meet education, training and other requirements in a field related to the services they provide and hold advanced degrees. To demonstrate the value respiratory therapists bring to the health care system, we need to be on a level playing field. The language in the bill is consistent with the RT qualification standards in our previous legislation initiatives and it supports the Association’s goal of moving the profession forward in order to compete in today’s market.

I’m a respiratory therapist who doesn’t meet the qualification criteria. Why should I work and lobby for this initiative?

With more and more services provided in the outpatient setting, it expands the profession and gives visibility to the RT that does not exist under the current law. That you may not hold the credentials required to qualify under the BREATHE Act does not mean you are left out. You can still work in the physician’s office and furnish services that fall under the general rules of the “incident to” benefit; that is, services that may otherwise be furnished by the physician or other nonphysician practitioner but are performed by the RT. Just because our bill focuses on telehealth does not mean that you cannot furnish the same services face-to-face when the patient comes into the physician’s office or clinic.

As covered telehealth providers, will respiratory therapists be able to bill Medicare directly for the telehealth services they furnish?

No, the Act does not change current payment policies or procedures in how respiratory therapists are reimbursed. Only the physician or other qualified non-physician practitioners with direct billing authority can bill Medicare for telehealth services furnished by respiratory therapists. We expect CMS to develop a modifier that can be affixed to the claim in order to identify when the RT furnished the service.

I am a respiratory therapist working in the inpatient hospital setting. Why should I lobby for the bill when it doesn’t impact me?

If this bill is enacted, for the first time CMS will have the means to track claims data that can demonstrate how well RTs perform in terms of improving health outcomes and reducing costs. We expect the data to show the value RTs bring to the health care system and that’s a huge win for the respiratory care profession, regardless of where you work. It gives us a starting point for bigger and better things in the future and, if shown to save money, can pave the way for RTs to become qualified telehealth professionals in expanded settings, including hospitals.

Virtual Lobby Campaign Activity

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