Telehealth experts push CMS for more flexibility

Recent changes to privileging rules are a great first step toward improving access to telehealth services, but there's a long way to go yet, say officials from the American Telemedicine Association.

CMS simply hasn't touched the biggest central obstacle--a lack of Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services in urban and suburban areas--Gary Capistrant, the ATA's senior director of public policy, tells iHealthBeat in an interview this week.

More than 79 percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in urban and suburban regions, but problems with poor public transportation, elderly patients' mobility, and poverty all conspire to make it hard for patients to get to medical facilities, Scott Simmons, telehealth director for the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, tells iHealthBeat.

CMS officials say it's out of their hands. The telehealth restrictions are part of Medicare law, and must be changed by Congress.

Capistrant responds that ATA is working with several legislators to gin up the process. One big challenge will be proving to skeptical politicians that telehealth won't increase Medicare's costs, he says.

To learn more:
- check out iHealthBeat's coverage
- here's a transcript of iHealthBeat's audio interview (.pdf)