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Medicare expands coverage for telehealth

December 5, 2013
by Richard R. Rogoski
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The policy changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2014 are opening doors to greater use of telehealth within long-term and post-actue care environments.

The finalized fee schedule, released Nov. 27, calls for expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth services in rural areas and underserved sections of urban areas. In addition, an increase in the reimbursement rate will be increased slightly, from $24.43 to $24.63.

"Healthcare is changing, and part of delivery system reform is recognizing this and making sure payment systems account for these changes," CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum said in a press release announcing the finalized fee schedule. "We believe that successful efforts to improve chronic care management for these patients could improve the quality of care while simultaneously decreasing costs, through reductions in hospitalizations, use of post-acute care services, and emergency department visits."

In response to the final Medicare payment rule,expected to be published Dec. 10, Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, president of the American Medical Association, again called for repeal of the sustainable growth rate—the current Medicare payment formula. But he also stressed the need for the expansion of technology in healthcare. "Innovation requires stability and investment: investment in health information technology to help share information at the point of care, investment in staff to help coordinate care, and investment in time for physicians to consult with each other about a patient’s care," he stated.