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Congress Eyes Seniors’ Access to mHealth Tools for Diabetes Care Management

By News

By Eric Wicklund

– A pair of Senators has re-introduced proposed legislation aimed at give seniors better access to mHealth and telehealth tools for diabetes care management.

The Improving Medicare Beneficiary Access to Innovative Diabetes Technologies Act, filed earlier this month by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), takes aim at the growing field of connected health devices and platforms for those living with diabetes. It would improve Medicare coverage for such things as implantable continuous glucose monitors, insulin dosing systems, mHealth apps and platforms and the artificial pancreas.

According to the American Diabetes Association, some 34.2 million Americans are living with diabetes, including 7.3 million who are undiagnosed. Of that number, 14.3 million, or 26.8 percent, are seniors.

Healthcare innovators have made significant strides in recent years in developing mHealth and telehealth tools that allow those living with diabetes to monitor their health and collaborate with their care providers. The technology allows providers and patients to manage care around the clock, adjusting medications to address trends, avoid serious health concerns like hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and improve long-term clinical outcomes.

“Technological advances make diabetes easier to manage,” Collins said in a press release. “The market arrival of cutting-edge diabetes technologies, however, does not immediately benefit patients if older Americans are unable to afford them. I have heard from numerous seniors who, when transitioning from employer-provided insurance to Medicare, were shocked to learn that the technologies they have relied upon for years to manage their diabetes are no longer covered. … Our bill would help ensure that outdated Medicare coverage criteria does not impede access to technologies that will improve care and reduce costs to the health care system as a whole.”

The bill, which was introduced in 2019 by Collins and Shaheen but failed to make it out of committee, would create a task force within the Health and Human Services Department to propose policies on coverage and payment for innovative diabetes technologies and services for seniors. It would report annually to the HHS Secretary and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator on:

  • Existing Medicare benefit categories under which innovative diabetes technologies and services should be covered;
  • Changes to Medicare statute and changes to regulations and sub-regulatory guidance for existing benefit categories that would be necessary to accommodate coverage and payment of innovative diabetes technologies and services;
  • The elimination of other unnecessary burdens that impede access to innovative diabetes technologies and services;
  • Proposals for a new benefit category for covering certain technologies and services that cannot otherwise be covered through changes to regulations and sub-regulatory guidance for existing benefit categories and specifications for the new benefit category and
  • Proposals to streamline interagency administrative processes through greater FDA and CMS collaboration that would facilitate prompt approval or clearance and coverage of innovative technologies and services for patients with diabetes.

Source mHealth Intelligence