Telemed limits hit rural care
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must remove restrictions that hamper Medicare providers’ ability to offer telehealth services.
Chief among those limitations, according to Morgan Reed, executive director of the Connected Health Initiative, is the fact that the Medicare program’s reimbursement for telemedicine is anemic—which he says is hurting rural healthcare in America and negatively affecting beneficiaries’ health outcomes.
“What’s going on that rural caregivers can’t better engage with patients using the tools that every single one of you currently have in the palm of your hand or on your wrist?” asked Reed during testimony in September before a Senate subcommittee hearing, pointing out that CMS reimburses $1 trillion a year for Medicare but spends a paltry $29 million on telehealth.
“Constituents in rural America face serious challenges in getting cost-effective quality care—people are too far away from healthcare services that cost, frankly, too much, and it’s likely to get worse,” testified Reed. “While 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, only 10 percent of physicians practice there.”
To address the problem, he urged lawmakers to support legislation that empowers CMS to ease access to telehealth where it is fiscally and clinically responsible to do so. Specifically, Reed called for the passage of the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act.