Telemed lim­its hit ru­ral care

Health Data Management - - WASHINGTON REPORT - —G.S.

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.

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