New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that, if signed into law, would improve patient access to critical cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation (CR/PR) programs under Medicare. The Increasing Access to Quality Cardiac Rehabilitation Care Act of 2021 (HR 1956) was introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat out of Delaware, and Rep. Adrian Smith, a Republican out of Nebraska.

The bill would allow advanced practice providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners to supervise day-to-day rehabilitation in 2022 instead of 2024, when that change is currently scheduled to go into effect.

“Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Delaware, but we know that reducing barriers to accessing cardiac rehabilitation has direct patient benefits, including the risk of a future cardiac event,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement.

“Nebraskans from all parts of the state are affected by heart and lung disease and need access to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, which are proven to enhance patients’ health and quality of life,” Smith added. “This legislation will increase access for cardiac patients, particularly in rural areas, by expanding who can order and supervise these programs, ensuring patients receive the care they need.”

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) both came out in support of the legislation after it was introduced.

“Every day in my practice I work with advanced practice providers who are routinely on the front line in critical care environments and who are highly trained and qualified to provide these safe, effective and vital services,” Samuel Jones IV, MD, chair of the ACC’s health affairs committee, said in a statement. “Passage of this critical legislation will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary obstacles and delays to this life changing–and life-saving therapy, especially in rural and underserved communities.”

“This legislation would bridge the gap between referral and the start of CR/PR and help Medicare patients more equitably access proven services to help improve their health outcomes,” Nancy Brown, AHA CEO, said in a separate statement. “We strongly urge passage of this vital legislation during the 117th Congress.”

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