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    New bill would expand Medicare patients ability to utilize telemedicine

    Last month, a bipartisan bill aimed at boosting Medicare’s coverage of telehealth services was introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI).  

     

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    If passed, the legislation—known as the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act—would expand access to healthcare in both rural and urban areas by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services.

    “Telehealth helps improve access to healthcare providers and will be instrumental in providing primary care services in local communities,” Osman Farooq, MD, an internist in Longwood, Florida, says.

    For example, at some providers, patients have the option to see a healthcare professional from the comfort of their own home, as virtual appointments allow the convenience to receive immediate personalized healthcare.

    Currently, Medicare covers limited telehealth services. The new legislation would require CMS’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to examine whether delivery reform initiatives, such as ACOs and bundled payments, can demonstrate how telehealth and remote monitoring services can help providers achieve program goals. 

     

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    The CMMI would evaluate the tested telehealth service for cost, effectiveness and quality of care. If one of the evaluated models succeeds in testing, eligible hospitals would be covered throughout Medicare.

    Is it enough?

    Not everyone thinks the legislation introduced is powerful enough. 

    James Wantuck MD, chief medical officer and co-founder of PlushCare, a telehealth urgent care provider, says legislators at all levels of government and in all parties, are moving in the right direction, calling the bill a small step forward, but one with large limitations.

    Next: Impact on PCPs

    Keith Loria
    Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.

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