Stakeholders' proposal lifts restrictions on telemedicine coverage for Medicare beneficiaries

Stakeholders across the healthcare industry joined together to ask Senate lawmakers for support of a proposal that would lift "outdated restrictions" on use and reimbursement of telemedicine services for Medicare patients.

The letter, sent to U.S. Senate Finance Committee members Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), outlines the proposal, which would lift restrictions to remote monitoring during the "bridge" to implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

To that end, healthcare provider groups have asked that Stage 3 of Meaningful Use be paused for re-evaluation in light of the "pivotal" changes caused by MACRA, which folds the Meaningful Use requirements into a new merit-based Medicare reimbursement system.

Organizations that signed onto the letter include AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness and Stanford Healthcare, among others.

"We are gratified to see such diverse organizations supporting telehealth and remote patient monitoring in Medicare," the Alliance for Connected Care said in a statement commending the letter. "These important tools can serve patients throughout the country, not just in rural areas. These technologies will be key to helping providers transition to new payment models, which require the ability to reach patients outside the four walls of the provider office."

The group asks Congress to create a "transition mechanism" that would allow payment for remote monitoring of Medicare beneficiaries who suffer from chronic diseases, with a belief the reforms should be in place until at least 2021.

Expanding payment parity for more telehealth services for Medicare patients is also the goal of a bill working its way through the House.

California Democrat Mike Thompson introduced the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 with support from Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in July.

Currently, some healthcare providers, including the Mayo Clinic, are absorbing the costs of telehealth services for which Medicare won't reimburse, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

The clinic is paying for the service to hospitals that are part of its health system. The service covers beds in eight hospitals.

To learn more:
- here's the letter (.pdf)