By Eric Wicklund
August 28, 2017 — Healthcare providers may be using more telehealth and telemedicine than ever before, but Medicare Is still a significant barrier to growth.
An analysis of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services’ 2016 payments for telehealth and telemedicine shows a strong uptick in total reimbursements, claims submitted and originating site claims, but the total is still a small fraction of CMS’ total payments of $600 billion-plus and nowhere near what the federal government anticipated spending some 15 years ago.
That difference between actual use and potential use is pushing a groundswell of support to change how CMS reimburses for digital and connected health technology. Aside from several letters calling on CMS to loosen the purse strings, more than a half-dozen bills have surfaced in Congress seeking those changes.
Notable for its absence is the patient’s home. Medicare does not reimburse for telehealth or telemedicine services provided to a patient at home, hindering many mobile health and remote monitoring programs.
And therein lies the problem. People on all sides of the political spectrum can agree that the US Government does not always use common sense in making regulations and rules. This is one of those times. If the goal of medical treatment is positive outcomes at less cost, seems to me that telemedicine is one of the tools to achieve this. There is a disincentive to do that, especially if the goal is a single-payer system where most would have Medicare/Medicaid and everyone would have some form of healthcare plan/insurance. To someone on a fixed income, even the amount listed (actual price for the service, fewer insurance considerations) is a barrier to treatment.