The newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services can put another item on her "to do" list—changing Medicare payment policy to allow for accountable care organizations (ACOs) to receive payment for telehealth and remote patient monitoring, including when used as part of physical therapy. At least that's what a coalition of health care-related organizations and a tech corporation would like to see, anyway.
According to a June 11 article in Medscape (free one-time registration required), organizations including the Alliance for Connected Care, the American Telemedicine Association, and the National Association of ACOs have requested that Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell look at expanding Medicare's coverage of telehealth beyond beneficiaries in rural areas who must travel to "originating sites." This could be done, the letters argue, if Burwell were to waive restrictions in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.
The letter from the American Telemedicine Association, the Health Information and Management Systems Society, and 10 other nonprofit organizations and for-profit corporations argues that current Medicare regulations "place arduous restrictions on telehealth services which limit patient access to new technologies, effectively discouraging providers from utilizing advanced … solutions in their practices." The letter lists physical therapy as one of the services that could benefit from a new approach that would lower costs and improve outcomes.
The letter estimates that current Medicare restrictions disqualify 80% of Medicare beneficiaries who don't happen to live in a setting defined as "rural," and that coverage is denied for service that originates from a patient's home or other nonmedical location, such as hospice.
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