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Telehealth reimbursement reform gets major support

February 13, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Telehealth is at a crossroad. Its use by hospitals, long-term care facilities and healthcare providers is growing, but reimbursement for such services is inconsistent. For example, while Medicaid covers telehealth services in 45 states, Medicare's reimbursements are limited to specific geographic locations within a state.

In support of telehealth and in a push to reform reimbursement policies, a new bipartisan organization called the Alliance for Connected Care has been formed. Its organizers include former U.S. Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.). Its board includes representatives from Verizon, WellPoint, Walgreens, CVS Caremark, Teladoc, HealthSpot, Doctor on Demand, Welch Allyn, MDLIVE, Care Innovations and Cardinal Health.

The goal of the organization is to raise awareness among policymakers about the advancements in telehealth and to create a regulatory environment that encourages the delivery of high-quality care using advanced technologies, according to a press release posted on the Alliance’s website.

"Increased adoption and use of new and innovative technologies is at the core of many of the payment and delivery reforms being tested across the nation and is also central to increasing patient engagement. We must ensure that our regulatory environment appropriately balances the exciting advances in technology for patients, while still maintaining safeguards that allow innovation," Sen. Daschle said in the release. "To put it in perspective, the legal structure around telehealth was established in 2000 when cell phones were still just phones."

Added Sen. Breaux: "Despite this rapidly developing technology, and increasing interest among patients and physicians in using connected care tools, legal and regulatory barriers continue to limit mainstream acceptance of the technology. Fully realizing the promise of connected care demands urgency among policymakers to foster a regulatory structure that enables safe use of remote patient care technology."