Groups Urge Burwell To Expand Access to Telehealth Services

June 9, 2014 in News

On Monday, proponents of telehealth services sent separate letters to newly confirmed HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, arguing that the current Medicare reimbursement structure is restricting accountable care organizations’ ability to offer telehealth services, EHR Intelligence reports.

Alliance for Connected Care Letter Details

In its letter to Burwell, the Alliance for Connected Care notes that Medicare currently reimburses for telehealth services only in limited circumstances. Remote care is reimbursable for beneficiaries able to reach an “originating site” in designated provider shortage regions or places outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The letter adds that such barriers run “counter to the Medicare Shared Savings Program’s goal of ACOs having the ability to coordinate care using telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other such enabling technologies” (Bresnick, EHR Intelligence, 6/9). 

The letter notes, “Given the promise of telehealth technologies in improving health care access and quality, as well as reducing costs for the Medicare program, the Alliance and the Advisory Board seek that the current barriers to the provision of telehealth services be removed for new care delivery models, such as ACOs.”

It adds, “For ACOs, the existing statutory and regulatory frameworks hinders their ability to better manage care and treat their beneficiary population in less costly care settings” (Alliance members, Alliance for Connected Care letter, 6/9).

Details of Second Letter

Meanwhile, a coalition of telehealth organizations in a separate letter to Burwell write that 80% of Medicare beneficiaries do not meet the agency’s current restrictive definitions (EHR Intelligence, 6/9).

The letter highlights the “known benefits of remote patient monitoring and telehealth services,” which include:

  • Improved care;
  • Decreased hospitalizations;
  • Avoidance of complications; and
  • Improved satisfaction, especially for the chronically ill.
  • They recommend that Burwell take two immediate actions:
  • Requesting public comment on expanding telehealth reimbursements in the upcoming MSSP rulemaking; and
  • Waiving current restrictions for Medicare telehealth service reimbursements from the Social Security Act.

The letter was signed by:

  • American Telemedicine Association;
  • Association of Clinicians for the Underserved;
  • Baxter International;
  • Christus Health;
  • Health IT Now Coalition;
  • Health Information Management Systems Society;
  • Intel;
  • Panasonic Corporation of North America;
  • Personal Connected Health Alliance;
  • Qualcomm; and
  • Telecommunications Industry Association (ATA et al. letter, 6/9).
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